Over the last couple decades there has been a dramatic rise in the number of children with food allergies, including deadly anaphylaxis. In an effort to prevent the development of these allergies, the common recommendation was to delay introduction of the most allergenic foods until a child was much older, even up to 3 years old. But the more we all avoided giving these foods to babies and young children, the higher the rate of food allergies.
As early as 2008 research suggested that this approach did not prevent food allergies and maybe even contributed to the development of food allergies. Continued research and analysis confirmed this information.
Since 2013, the new recommendation is that allergenic foods such as peanuts and other nuts, dairy, soy, eggs and fish should be introduced into a healthy infant’s diet before 1 year of age. A more recent study found a 60 percent reduction in food allergies when these foods were introduced by 10 months of age and were given three or more times per week. This applies to healthy, normal babies. An infant who already is showing signs of atopy (allergy-like illnesses) like eczema or asthma may need a different plan. And of course, infants should not be given complimentary foods that need to be chewed. Complimentary foods always need to be soft, small and easily break apart, melt or be smooth to prevent choking.
A great recap of this and more is available at Starting Solid Foods at www.healthychildren.org.
It’s always wise to be cautious, but to have a toddler happily singing the Wiggles’ song “Peanut Butter,” carefully add these allergy foods early.
Dr. Danette Glassy, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician at Mercer Island Pediatrics, providing a medical home for her patients for over 20 years. She is also an active child advocate working to improve the health and well-being of children and their families across the country. In this column she shares information of interest to families and caregivers as their child’s primary advocate. Information is her own view and not medical advice.