Food allergies in kids can have devastating consequences, but as parents, what can you do? Other than closely monitor what they eat while with you and hope they don’t accidentally ingest the food on their own, there are not many other ways to prevent it. But, what if you can decrease the risk of getting a food allergy? Recent research suggests it’s possible.
For many years, pediatricians have been recommending that parents hold off on giving their babies foods that commonly cause allergic reactions, including egg, dairy, seafood or wheat, for the child’s first year. They also suggested that families wait until a child is two or three years old to give them peanuts or other nut products. Turns out, that may have been counterproductive advice.
One study recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine involved more than 1,000 exclusively breastfed 3-month-old babies, who were divided into test groups. The first group only fed their babies breast milk for six months. The second group was asked to give babies six foods that were known for causing allergic reactions: peanut products, eggs, cow’s milk, sesame, wheat and whitefish. When the babies were re-tested between ages one and three years, the study found that fewer children ended up with peanut or egg allergies.
Although the researchers didn’t find any decreases in allergies to the other foods, they also didn’t find – and this is important – any increases either. Those foods could be safe for your children.
Another study published at the same time and led by a doctor from King’s College London found that if you stop giving peanut products to children who were given them as babies, the children don’t get allergic reactions when they start eating peanuts again. Exposing your children to peanuts and nut products as babies could potentially set them up for fewer food allergies as they get older.
Before you break out the peanuts and eggs, you should still exercise caution. Speak with your pediatrician about the safety of these food products for your family. Never give your babies or toddlers actual peanuts or chunky peanut butter (they might choke). Also remember to not overdo it – the study used these foods as snacks and made sure they were safe for babies to swallow. W