Why you Should Introduce Allergens Early

1 in 13 children will develop a food allergy, as per the American Academy or Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Here are some reasons.

Here are some reasons

1 in 13 children will develop a food allergy, as per the American Academy or Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. 

Babies aren’t born with food allergies. Rather, food allergies develop over time. And even though babies are at increased risk for food allergies if someone in their immediate family has an allergy, all babies are at risk for food allergies even if they have no family history of allergies.

Today 1 in 13 children has a food allergy – that’s an average of 2 kids in every classroom. If these children eat even a small amount of a food they’re allergic to, they will develop an allergic reaction that could become severe. But early allergen introduction can help set your child up for a future where they’re free to enjoy all yummy foods without worry.

2. 2 out of 3 babies with severe eczema will develop a food allergy. If your baby has severe eczema, they’re at an increased risk of developing a food allergy. This is because eczema (atopic dermatitis) and food allergies are related conditions. They are both considered “atopic” conditions – conditions that involve reactions in the immune system when someone is exposed to an irritant or allergen.

Research shows that food allergies often develop after someone develops eczema – and the more severe their eczema, the more likely they are to develop food allergies. So, early allergen introduction is even more important for babies with severe eczema. 

3. Peanut, egg, and milk make up 80% of food allergic reactions in children. They are the three foods most commonly associated with childhood food allergies. 

Peanut allergies aren’t outgrown later in life very often. And although any food allergy can cause a severe reaction, peanut allergies are the most likely to cause life-threatening anaphylactic reactions. 

Concerningly, in recent years, the number of children with a peanut allergy has more than tripled in developed countries like the United States.

Egg and milk allergies are some of the hardest allergies to manage, because these two ingredients show up in so many foods – particularly foods that kids typically enjoy. 

  • Eggs often show up in mayonnaise, pasta and some breads and battered foods that are brushed with egg wash. 

  • Milk is an ingredient in yogurt, cheese sandwiches, and cheesy snack crackers.

  • And both eggs and milk are usually used in ice cream, pizzas, mac and cheese, birthday cakes, and other types of baked goods. 

So, these allergies can have a significant impact on a child’s quality of life. Children with these allergies often end up feeling excluded or left out, since they can’t eat the same foods their peers are eating. 

But introducing peanut, and milk products starting in baby’s first year can help your child’s body recognize these foods as just foods, and help set them up for a future of food freedom.

4. Introducing allergens promotes diet diversity

Various International Dietary Guidelines affirm that feeding your baby a diverse, nutritious diet, including common allergen foods, is key to developing healthy eating habits. 

USDA guidelines recommend “introducing foods across all the food groups,” including a variety of fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy foods, whole grains, nut products and soy products. Many of these foods – eggs, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish, and wheat – are common allergens. 

But the USDA goes one step further and emphasizes, “Potentially allergenic foods (e.g., peanuts, egg, cow milk products, tree nuts, wheat, crustacean shellfish, fish, and soy) should be introduced” as part of this diverse diet. 

5. It’s safest to introduce allergens to infants. 
The safest time to introduce allergens is before a baby's first birthday, because babies younger than 1 year old are the least likely to develop a severe allergic reaction. 

6. Landmark studies and medical guidelines recommend introducing allergens early and often, to give baby the best chance at food freedom. 

Previously, the most common approach was to wait 1-3 years to introduce allergens, but this approach wasn't supported by science. Thanks to recent clinical studies, and guidelines based on these studies, we now know that the opposite approach is best. 

Results from the landmark LEAP, EAT, and PETIT studies show that introducing allergens to babies, starting before their first birthday, leads to healthier outcomes than delaying allergen feeding. 

In these studies, babies were randomly assigned to either consume allergens like peanut and egg regularly, or avoid these allergens completely. All three of these studies’ results showed that early allergen introduction – consuming the foods early and often – gave children the best chance at a life of food freedom.

How do I Introduce Allergens to my Little One

When should I start giving my baby allergenic  foods?

You can introduce allergenic foods to your baby when you are introducing solids. This is usually from around 6 months of age. Introduce common allergy foods before your baby reaches 12 months of age, since this may reduce their chance of developing an allergy.

If possible, continue to breastfeed while you are introducing solids, since this may reduce the risk of allergies developing.

If you’re not breastfeeding, you can give your baby a standard cow’s milk based formula. International Allergy Organizations do not routinely recommend you give your baby special hydrolysed infant formula or soy or goat’s milk formula to try to prevent allergy.

Some of the first foods you give your baby should  include foods that your family usually eats, even if they are common allergenic foods. Try to include foods that contain iron in your baby’s diet. 

Which allergenic foods should I introduce first?
Start with the allergy food you would like your baby to try first. Remember that the food should be age-appropriate (smooth, soft foods to start with, then moving to foods with different textures as your baby grows).

A good place to start is with soft foods like a well-cooked egg or smooth peanut butter. Don’t give your baby whole or chopped nuts, since this could cause choking.

How should I introduce allergy foods?
It’s best to try one new allergy food at a time. That way, if your baby has an allergic reaction, it will be easier to identify which food is causing the reaction.

If your baby doesn’t have an allergic reaction to the new food, keep giving it to them about twice a week. An allergy may develop if the food isn’t given on a regular basis after trying it. Mix a small amount of the new food in with your baby’s usual food. If your baby doesn’t have a reaction, you can gradually increase the amount next time.

You can try a new allergy food each day — but remember to keep giving your baby the food once you have introduced it to their regular diet.
If you want to test a type of food before your baby eats it, rub a small amount of the food on the inside of your baby’s lip. If there is no reaction after a few minutes, then your baby can try eating it. Don’t rub food on your baby’s skin. This will not show whether your baby will have an allergic reaction to it.

What time of day should I introduce allergy foods?
Try introducing new allergy foods during daytime meals. That way, if your baby has a reaction, you can monitor them more easily.

What if my Baby has an Allergic Reaction

How can I tell if my baby is having an allergic reaction?

Symptoms of an allergic reaction usually occur within a few minutes, but can take up to 2 hours to develop.

Mild-to-moderate symptoms may include:

  • hives or red welts (bumps) on the skin
  • swelling of the lips, face or eyelids
  • tingling in or around the mouth
  • stomach pains
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea

If your baby has redness around their mouth, it’s usually not an allergic reaction. Babies have sensitive skin that can be irritated by contact with some foods. If you’re concerned, it’s best to discuss this with your doctor.

More serious symptoms can indicate a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis. 

Anaphylaxis is rare, but it is a medical emergency. The symptoms of anaphylaxis may include:

  • difficulty in breathing or noisy breathing
  • swelling of the tongue
  • swelling of the throat — this can cause drooling
  • hoarse voice
  • cough or wheeze
  • looking pale
  • collapse or going 'floppy'

If your baby has a mild reaction to a certain type of food:

  • Stop giving them that food.
  • Monitor them for symptoms of anaphylaxis.
  • See your doctor for advice and an accurate diagnosis.
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