SMH reports on trend to intro babies to potentially allergenic foods sooner rather than later
Paula Goodyer, Sydney Morning Herald, 3 July 2012
Fending off food allergy
Hands up: what’s the most common food allergy in children? If (like me) you guessed peanuts, you’d be wrong. Egg allergy is the number one food allergy, says Associate Professor Debbie Palmer of the School of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Western Australia, but it has an advantage that peanuts don’t – it’s generally short lived. While egg allergies often disappear by school age, peanut allergy can be forever – only around 20 per cent of children grow out of it.
With food allergy on the rise – it’s three times more common than it was a generation ago – researchers are looking for ways to stem the tide. Until recently the advice on preventing food allergy has been to avoid giving babies potentially allergenic foods early. Now the pendulum is swinging the other way and a strong contender for allergy protection is introducing babies earlier rather than later to foods that cause most childhood food allergy – eggs, cow’s milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish, says Palmer.
With eggs, for instance, the advice from the 2003 guidelines from Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council and still used by some health professionals, is to introduce yolk at eight months and egg white at 12 months. But some studies have found that introducing egg and other foods that cause allergy before nine months may help prevent allergies, says Palmer.
“The thinking is that introducing these foods early helps babies develop a tolerance and the allergy prevention advice from the Australasian Society for Clinical Immunology and Allergy is to introduce solids from four to six months of age.”
But this recommendation from medical allergy specialists clashes with the new NH&MRC guidelines for feeding babies – still in draft form – that recommends giving babies breast milk alone for the first six months. As Palmer points out, this advice originates from the World Health Organisation and is aimed at preventing infection in babies – a problem that’s less common in developed countries like Australia where allergy is more of an issue.
So what’s a bewildered parent to do?
Read the full article here.