Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated their dietary guidelines for introducing babies to food allergens.
Here’s what you need to know about babies and food allergies.
Peanuts! Eggs! Milk! Soon, avoiding these common food allergies could be a thing of the past for many families. Scientists used to think that waiting to introduce foods that commonly cause allergic reactions could help prevent allergies. But not all scientists agreed. Now, there is more and more evidence that giving small amounts of these foods to kids early in life may be the best way to prevent allergies.
What is an allergic reaction?
An allergic reaction is when your body reacts with physical harm after being exposed to a substance. Common allergens include pollen, fur, some foods and dust. Most allergies show up as dermatitis (itchy or irritated skin), asthma, allergic rhinitis (runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, red, itchy and watery eyes, and swelling around the eyes). There are many types of allergens and allergic reactions. Click here to learn more.
New research says introducing certain foods in small amounts can lead to preventing allergies.
It look many years and many scientists thinking about allergies to learn how families prevent allergies. One of the most important research studies looked at how a group of families avoided peanut allergy by giving babies small amounts of peanut early in life. With this new information, the AAP made changes to their guidance. Recently, they released a report with three early interventions. But they also updated older ideas that are no longer true. Here’s what they debunked and what they advised:
- There is no evidence that limiting what a mother eats during pregnancy will prevent allergies.
- A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and foods containing vitamin D is associated with lower rates of atopic disease (dermatitis or asthma) in children.
- There is no evidence that restricting a mother’s diet during breastfeeding will prevent allergies.
- Breastfeeding beyond 3-4 months protects against wheezing in the first two
- Some evidence shows that breastfeeding beyond 4 months protects against asthma.
“We encourage parents to talk to their pediatrician or allergist about the symptoms of allergies and whether their child should be tested.” — A. Wesley Burks, M.D., FAAP, coauthor of the Early Introduction of Peanut-Based Foods to Prevent Allergies study.
- Always consult a doctor before doing anything that might put your child at risk. Make sure to consult with your pediatrician or allergist before introducing your child to food that could bring on allergies.
- When introducing children to allergens, consistency is important. Work with your doctor to figure out how often and what amount of peanuts, eggs and dairy you can mix into your child’s diet.
- If a child already presents signs of skin conditions, like atopic dermatitis and/or an egg allergy, families are advised to try small amounts of peanut as early as 4-6 months.
- For babies with mild to moderate eczema, the AAP guidelines recommend introducing them to baby-safe foods with peanuts in them as early as 6 months of age.
- Babies without food allergies can begin trying baby-safe forms of peanut (ground or pureed) when they are age-appropriate. For children who are exclusively breastfed, waiting after 6 months of age works well.
There’s more information to come.
While a lot of progress has been made with peanut allergies, scientists still think more research is needed for other food allergens, like eggs and dairy. So stay tuned!