In our modern world, it feels that food allergies have been becoming more and more common. This actually is the case as there has been a significant increase in the presence of food allergies among children. These food allergies can be costly to parents as they have to pay for epi-pens or hospitalizations due to such allergies. As a result, scientists and doctors are beginning to rethink how we approach food allergies and, more specifically, how we introduce certain allergens in infants and young children.
In the past, parents and doctors alike were told to delay exposure to potential allergens, such as eggs, dairy, soy, and nuts. In the case of many common allergens, they were advised to wait until years after birth to begin their introductions. However, these guidelines were primarily based on opinion rather than facts and evidence, and they may have actually increased the likelihood of developing allergies.
Based on many past and ongoing studies, doctors and the USDA have shifted their recommendation, instructing parents to introduce food allergens early in a baby’s diet to help decrease the risk of developing food allergies. Such a pattern was seen in studies conducted in the UK and Israel, Sweden, and Australia, which all looked at the rate of food allergies between children who were and weren’t exposed to food allergens early in their infancy. They found a correlation between introducing food allergens early and lower food allergy rates as those children got older. While parents may be apprehensive if they have a family history of a food allergy, introducing common allergens before birth, during breastfeeding, and when the baby begins eating solid foods can help decrease the likelihood of developing food allergies in the long run.
By Vice-President Sarina Thapar and Guest Contributor George Hanna