Yoram Padeh, M.D.
As an Allergist, a common question I get asked by parents is “When can I start feeding my child foods which may cause allergies?” In the past, the answer doctors provided was to avoid certain foods until a certain age as this provided the best way to avoid food allergies. Meanwhile, this answer by doctors was borne more out of fear than scientific data. We now know that early introduction of foods to infants is the best way to avoid food allergies.
The LEAP study, a recent study published in February 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine, proves just that. Over 600 children ages 4-months-old to 11-months-old who were already allergic to eggs, had eczema (an allergic skin condition), or both, were randomly assigned to either eat peanuts (foods containing peanuts) or avoid them, until the age of 5-years-old. The results were striking. The chance of developing an allergy to peanuts was significantly higher in the group of children who avoided peanuts than the group that ate them.
Even more significant was that within the group of children assigned to eat peanuts, the children who passed a peanut challenge (for safety within the study) and then continued to eat peanuts had no reported incidence of peanut allergy. The only children in this group (assigned to eat peanuts) who “became” allergic were those who were already allergic at the start of the study. So the conclusion of this study is quite clear: the best way to avoid a food allergy is to begin eating the food from an early age and continue.
The guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and from ABAI-certified Allergists currently state that children should begin eating all foods from the age of 4-months-old to 6-months-old. Of course, new foods should be introduced in small amounts to start and only one new food should be introduced per week. If a child does develop a reaction to a food, then this food should be avoided for the time being and further advise should be sought from an Allergist.
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