With rates of food allergy in children on the rise, many parents are curious about how food introduction may play a role in prevention. Read on to learn about the most common food allergens and current recommendations to reduce the risk of developing a food allergy.
Food introduction and reactions
When it comes to new foods, it’s important to introduce only one new item at a time, waiting three to five days before moving on to the next food. It is during this window of time that parents should keep an eye out for possible food-related reactions (recalling that it may take up to 72 hours for some symptoms to appear). Symptoms of food allergy typically occur rapidly and may include hives or welts on the skin, swelling of the tongue or mouth, coughing or difficulty breathing, or severe vomiting or diarrhoea. If your child experiences any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately
Every child is unique, however, there are some common potentially allergenic foods, including peanuts, cow milk, egg, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.
Based on emerging research, the American Academy of Paediatrics says there is no evidence that waiting to introduce these allergenic foods prevents allergies. Early introduction may, in fact, be beneficial.
When should you feed your baby peanuts?
The guidelines for peanut introduction are quite specific for children at risk of peanut allergy. For example, for babies with mild to moderate eczema, introduction of peanut products* is recommended at 6 months to reduce the risk of peanut allergy (after introducing a few other foods first). Consulting with your doctor in advance is optional.
Children with an egg allergy or severe eczema are considered high risk for peanut allergy. It is recommended that these children be tested for peanut allergy at their 2 or 4 month check up, then introduce peanut products between 4 and 6 months either at home or under medical supervision. Once peanut is successfully introduced, it is suggested to provide 3 or more, small servings per week to prevent development of allergy.
Introducing other potential food allergens
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommends introducing potentially allergenic foods between 4 to 6 months after your baby has tolerated a few low allergenic foods well (such as sweet potato, carrot and banana). Potentially allergenic foods may be best introduced at home rather than at day care or a restaurant. If your little one has an established food allergy or suspected food allergy, mild to moderate eczema despite treatment, or a sibling with peanut allergy, it is recommended to consult with your baby’s health professional prior to introduction of potentially allergenic foods.
Whole cooked egg**, such as scrambled or boiled, may be more beneficial in reducing the risk of egg allergy than eggs baked in other products. When it comes to cow’s milk, consider yogurt and/or cheese (since cow’s milk is not nutritionally suitable for children under 12 months). For the 2-3% of children under 1 with cow milk protein allergy (CMPA), avoidance of all cow’s milk protein is recommended. It should be noted that goat’s milk and goat’s milk foods (like KABRITA Goat Milk Formula) are not suitable for children with CMPA. Goat’s milk*** may be a solution for children with cow milk sensitivity. If you are not sure if your little one’s symptoms stem from allergy or sensitivity, it’s best to work with your health professional.
*Never give a baby peanuts as they are a choking hazard
**Ensure eggs are fully cooked for babies, due to risk of salmonella.
*** Not suitable for children with cow milk protein allergy (CMPA)