Pediatricians Reverse Decades-Old Recommendation For Children

Parents are often full of questions and concerns about their child’s nutrition.

And many parents are faced with the frightening realization that their child has a severe food allergy.

Most commonly associated with peanuts, milk, and eggs, these allergenic foods can cause life-threatening symptoms when exposed to children with a history of allergies.

But now, after decades of recommending avoidance of such foods, pediatricians worldwide are reversing previous advice on when to introduce these foods.

The previous recommendation was to avoid allergenic foods like peanut butter and eggs in the first year of life, particularly if a family history of food allergies was present.

However, studies conducted in the last several years prove the opposite to be true.

Early introduction to infants of allergenic foods has been found to reduce — or entirely prevent — allergies from developing.

Newsweek reported:

For decades, pediatricians and other health experts argued that parents should delay a child’s exposure to so-called allergenic foods such as peanuts, eggs, wheat and cow’s milk. But in recent years that belief has changed and now researchers are eager to prove early introduction, not avoidance, is actually the key to preventing serious food allergies.

And the Association for Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, who conducted several studies in the field reported:

In the past, some experts recommended that dairy products and other highly allergenic foods like eggs, peanuts and fish not be introduced until after an infant’s first birthday. More recently, evidence has shown that there is no reason to delay introduction of the highly allergenic foods beyond 4 to 6 months of age. In fact, delaying the introduction of these foods may increase your baby’s risk of developing allergies. Highly allergenic foods can be introduced to your baby between 4 and 6 months of age, just as you would introduce any other solid foods.

Research has not only found that introducing infants to allergenic foods is beneficial to preventing an allergy development, but has also found that allergies were reduced when mothers consumed foods like peanuts while pregnant and breastfeeding.

Baby Centre reported prenatal exposureespecially with peanuts, one of the most prevalent and dangerous food allergens — is highly beneficial as “some studies even suggest that eating peanuts during pregnancy may make your child less likely to develop a peanut allergy. Children from cultures who eat peanuts from an early age seem to be protected against the allergy.”

It appears the earlier the exposure, the higher the likelihood that the child will not develop an allergy when these foods are introduced.

While pediatricians still recommend exclusively breastfeeding until solid foods are introduced around 4-6 months of age, the sooner the infant can safely eat potential allergenic foods such as peanut butter and eggs, the better.

Parenting reported on the current guidelines, and also tips for introducing allergenic foods:

New guidelines from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) suggest high-risk allergens like peanuts, eggs, and fish can be safely added to your baby’s diet between the ages of 4-6 months as “complementary foods.”

Guidelines reported in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practiceare in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ current recommendations on the exposure of infants to high-risk foods, and take the conversation one step further by explaining how and when to add these foods to your child’s diet.

  • The child can be given an initial taste of one of these foods at home, rather than at day care or at a restaurant.
    • Parents should be advised that for some foods, such as peanuts, most reactions occur in response to what is believed to be the initial ingestion.
    • If there is no apparent reaction, the food can be introduced in gradually increasing amounts.
    • Introduction of other new foods should proceed at a rate of one new food every 3 to 5 days if no reactions occur.

Several studies were conducted using two groups of children; those exposed to allergenic foods early in infancy, and those who were not exposed until later in childhood — and the results were staggering.

One particular group-study showed that between two groups of children randomized to either consume or avoid potentially allergenic foods until five years of age, the children introduced to allergenic foods from early infancy showed an 81 percent reduction in food allergies.

Obviously, parents should remain vigilant about any sign of allergic reaction when introducing allergenic foods such as peanuts, eggs, milk, or wheat — especially with a family history of food allergies.

If your child shows any signs of reaction, discontinue exposure to that food and seek the advice of your physician immediately.

But for healthy children, these new findings and the subsequent changes in recommendations by pediatricians show great promise for reducing dangerous food allergies in children.

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