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New Childhood Allergy Guidelines Recommend Early Exposure to Eggs, Peanuts

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If you’re constantly monitoring your infant’s diet, afraid of putting him at risk for food-related allergies, it may be time to let your guard down a little. 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.” Not only is this exposure safe for children, the Academy says, it may even help prevent dangerous food allergies from developing. 

The new guidelines, published in the January 2013 issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, are 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.

Plus: Why More and More Babies are Developing Food Allergies

The authors of the paper offer tips on ensuring kids are introduced to these foods safely:

• 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.

“There may be situations,” the authors clarify, “when it is appropriate to vary this advice, such as for infants with an established diagnosis of food allergy or severe eczema.”

In such cases, seek advice from your family’s pediatrician or a childhood allergy specialist.

Plus: The Truth About Food Allergies

“Food allergy reactions are immediate, so if a mother is in her own home, and she gives her baby that first bit of peanut butter and they react, she is going to know, and she is going to take that child to the doctor,” says Amal Assa'ad, MD, of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

“If we leave children to their own devices, and someone in daycare gives them a peanut butter sandwich, they may have a reaction, and no one will notice.”

Assa’ad, one of the study co-authors, cited vomiting, diarrhea, gassiness, and skin rash as the most common symptoms of food allergies in a child between the ages of 4-6 months. Should your child exhibit any of these symptoms after ingesting a potential allergen, consult your doctor.

Assa’ad also suggested breastfeeding as an early tool to combat childhood milk allergies.

”Breastfeeding is one of the things that is thought to be protective,” she tells Parenting. 

“Exclusive breastfeeding for at least four and up to six months is something that is beneficial in protecting against allergies. For those that cannot breastfeed, it is suggested that they use hydrolyzed formula, because that can help prevent cow milk allergies.”

Did you feed your children high-risk foods early on? What do you think about the new recommendations?

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