Early Introduction of Allergenic Foods

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The introduction of highly allergenic foods for babies and toddlers is a controversial subject. You may have come across advice to wait until a child reaches the age of 1 or even later before introducing things like peanuts and tree nuts. 

However, in early 2019 the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its guidelines and recommended that parents begin introducing highly allergenic foods to their infants as early as four to six months of age. They stress this recommendation especially for children at high risk of food allergies, such as those with a family history of allergies or those with severe eczema. 

Below we will discuss the reasoning behind early introduction and the steps you can take for easy implementation. There are also several products on the market that can make early introduction easier – you will find those recommendations below!

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Years ago, medical professionals thought that introducing highly allergenic foods to children at such a young age could potentially cause a food allergy to develop. This is why parents were told for many years to wait until their children were older to introduce the common allergens. 

Over time, however, studies showed that waiting to introduce these foods may potentially be causing a significant surge in the diagnosis of food allergies. 

There is evidence to suggest that if an infant is exposed to an allergen through broken skin (and subsequently, the bloodstream) before being exposed through the digestive tract, they may develop a sensitivity to the food. 

This may also be why children with eczema are at a much higher risk of food allergies. 

Introducing potential allergens early may help to prevent this from happening.

If proceeding with the early introduction of food allergens, it is typically recommended to start with one allergenic food at a time. Each food should be given several times before moving on to the next since reactions do not always occur on the first exposure.

Once parents introduce highly allergenic foods to their baby it is also recommended that they continue feeding the food regularly, typically two to three times per week. 

If an allergenic food is introduced and then not consumed for an extended period, it may give the body time to develop a sensitivity. The assumption is that young children, especially those at high-risk, need to have regular exposure for several years to ensure their body continues to recognize the food as “safe.”

There are several products on the market now that can assist parents with introducing these foods at an early age. The majority of these products come in powder form and are easily mixed with breastmilk, formula, or baby food. 

It’s important to note that these products are meant to be used as a way to keep highly allergenic foods in your child’s diet once they have been introduced. Again, each food should be introduced individually at first so that if a child reacts to the food, you will know exactly which food caused the reaction.

Ready.Set.Food! is one such product and it contains the three most common allergens which are egg, peanut, and milk. This is a great product to start with because most parents who partake in early introduction choose to introduce these three foods first. 

Once your child has been exposed to all of the top 8 food allergens plus sesame (which is also a common allergen!) then SpoonfulOne becomes a great option! SpoonfulOne contains peanuts, milk, shellfish, six different tree nuts, eggs, fish, grains, soy, and sesame. SpoonfulOne can be purchased as a powder mix-in but they also have options of puffs or crackers for toddlers!

For parents who are looking for an easy way to introduce peanuts, another great option is MyPeanut! MyPeanut is basically a no-mess applesauce pouch that also contains peanut protein. You can also purchase MyPeanut with Tree Nuts which contains both peanut protein and a mix of seven different tree nuts!

Always follow the advice of your pediatrician or medical provider, but by introducing highly allergenic foods early parents may potentially lessen the risk of their child developing a life-threatening food allergy.

Does your child already have a food allergy? Check out my post about oral immunotherapy here!

*The medical/health information above is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. 

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