Methodist Healthcare - December 01, 2021

The way you parent your baby today is probably a little different from how you grew up. For instance, safety recommendations for car seats and cribs continue to change as experts learn more about how to best protect our children. Guidance on food allergies is shifting too — and as rates of food allergies continue to rise — researchers are giving new advice.

Kids with food allergies

About one in 13 children now has a food allergy, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and it’s a growing health concern. A food allergy happens when your child’s immune system, which normally protects them from germs, mistakenly responds to a certain food as if it were harmful. The response can be severe and even life-threatening.

That can be scary to think about as a new parent. But more research, and resources, are now available to help families navigate food allergies than ever before.

The latest advice

Any food may cause an allergic reaction, but the eight foods reported to cause the most trouble are:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat

In recent years, recommendations were made to delay introducing these foods into babies’ diets, with the thinking that the delay might help children avoid developing allergies to them. However, researchers report now that doesn’t appear to be the case, and the advice has changed.

Today, experts believe there is no benefit to delaying the introduction of these foods, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Giving your child these foods in the same, age-appropriate ways you introduce other foods, and continuing to serve them regularly, may even help keep your child from developing allergies to them.

Peanut allergies

There’s a good reason that peanut products are no longer welcome at many daycares, schools and camps: Peanuts are the leading cause of fatal and near-fatal allergic reactions in the United States.

The advice on when to first feed your baby peanut-containing products (actual peanuts, themselves, and peanut butter are both choking hazards for babies) depends on his or her health history, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Babies with severe eczema or other allergies

If your baby has severe eczema or an egg allergy, he or she might also be at a high risk for developing a peanut allergy. If that’s the case, you should have your baby tested for a peanut allergy before serving them any peanut products. You will want to talk with your child’s doctor about how to carefully introduce them.

If your baby has mild or moderate eczema, you should still speak to your child’s doctor about how to begin serving peanut products. They might recommend beginning right around six months of age.

Babies not at high risk of developing a peanut allergy

If your baby doesn’t have eczema or other food allergies, you can introduce them to products containing peanut butter after they’ve had a few other solid foods. One way to introduce peanuts to your baby would be to thin out and mix a small amount of peanut butter into cereal or yogurt.

Other allergies

For the rest of the commonly allergenic foods, the guidance is the same: Introduce them as you normally would as part of your baby’s age appropriate, well-rounded diet.

When giving your baby one of the commonly allergenic foods for the first time, it’s a good idea to do so at home (as opposed to out at a restaurant or when they’re at daycare). Watch carefully for symptoms of an allergic reaction such as hives, vomiting, wheezing, swelling of the lips or tongue, or itchy skin.

It’s generally recommended to give new foods to your baby one at a time, with at least three to five days in between. That way, if your baby has a reaction to a particular food, it’s easier to pinpoint which food caused the problem.

What to remember

Some children may outgrow their allergies, and some will not. It’s important to know that even with a life-threatening allergy, kids can live very happy and normal lives. It will take extra work and diligence to protect them, so finding resources to support you and connecting with other families dealing with allergies will help you on your way.

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns about an allergic reaction or other life-threatening emergency, call 911.

Nurses representing Methodist Children’s Hospital are standing by to personally assist you with medical advice concerning your child when they are sick. If your child is having a non-life-threatening emergency and you do not need to call 911, you can call  for the appropriate advice.

If you have addition questions about food allergies or your baby’s development, you can always find more resources to help at Methodist Children’s Hospital.