Feeding 'High-Risk' Babies Allergens Early Can Prevent Allergies, Study
It was suggested by immunologists 10 years ago that common "allergy-causing foods" should be given to children only when they are older, so that they do not become susceptible to allergies. But now, the opposite has been suggested---introducing allergy-causing foods to children early can prevent the allergies, according to Medical Daily.
Hence, babies as small as four to six months could be exposed to food containing peanuts, soy, eggs and other common allergens.
"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," study authors Elissa Abrams and Allan Becker from the Department of Pediatric Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg explained. "Once highly allergenic foods are introduced, regular exposure is important for maintenance of tolerance - children should eat these foods on a regular basis."
Some babies are at a high risk of developing "hypersensitivity" to allergens. These are children whose parents or siblings could be allergic to certain types of foods. In a study called Learning Early About Peanut (LEAP), it was found that introducing peanuts to sensitive children early decreases their tendency to develop the allergies 80 percent.
The study has propelled groups such as American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology to suggest that babies can be introduced at four to 11 months old, not 12 to 36 months as recommended earlier. Still, it is important to consult a physician, they suggest.
"It has been well documented that avoidance of allergenic foods is not preventive of food allergy," the authors wrote. "In the newly released LEAP study, there is strong evidence that early introduction of peanut is in fact preventive. How this will change current guidelines on food introduction remains to be seen."
The study was published in the online Oct. 19 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.