In the ongoing struggle of parents who have children with food allergies, a new review of recent evidence might be a light at the end of the tunnel.
A review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal advises parents that introducing foods like peanuts into their children's diets at an early age may prevent future severe allergies. The scientists explain that when children begin eating foods like eggs and peanuts at the ages of four to six months, they reduced the chance of having that food allergy later in life, says Julienne Roman for Tech Times.
Although the advice seems contrary to the old understandings of immunologists who told parents to keep away from these foods until their children were older, the current advice has proven effective.
"If parents ask how to prevent allergy in their children, our current advice is to introduce the allergenic foods at four to six months of age," the authors wrote in their study, citing that early and regular exposure to these allergens is important in building tolerance for them.
One study that challenged conventional wisdom was the Learning Early About Peanut (LEAP) study. Researchers found that by adding peanuts to a child's diet early the chances of having an allergy to the nuts was cut by 80%. Dr. Elissa Abrams of the Department of Pediatric Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the University of Manitoba, who co-authored the study, says that children can develop the allergy through their skin if there is an open wound and the child has not been eating these foods before encountering them.
No studies have dealt with the same effect being observed in children who are fed eggs and other allergenic foods at an early age, but organizations like the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology now recommend that children have peanuts introduced to their diets between four and 11 months-old.
Abrams added that although some studies found that pregnant or breastfeeding mothers should avoid allergenic foods, the studies in their review found that mothers who do avoid these foods take the risk of their children having allergies and possible premature births.
The review states that babies at four to six months can begin eating foods such as cow's milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, and sesame. Once they are introduced to the baby, they should continue to eat them on a regular basis to avoid developing allergies, according to Lois Abraham of The Canadian Press.
"We're in the midst of a food allergy epidemic, so prevention is really important," said Abrams.
In the past, parents with babies who had a high risk of developing allergies were told to wait 12 to 36 months before introducing typically allergenic foods. The idea was that if infants' immune and digestive systems matured it would lower the chance that they would become allergic. But instead of food allergies decreasing, there was an increase in some areas.
The new review does advise that if there is a history of allergies in the family the parents should visit an allergist before introducing questionable foods.
A recent survey of Canadian households found that 8% reported at least one food allergy, according to the Periodic-Post.