TORONTO – There is new advice for parents of infants who are at high-risk of developing a food allergy.
The Canadian Pediatric Society and the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology say parents of young children at high risk of food allergies no longer need to shield them from foods like peanuts, eggs or shellfish.
In a statement, the groups say babies can be exposed to potential food allergens as early as six months of age — a reversal of previous guidance.
It was thought that keeping foods that trigger allergic reactions out of the diets of at-risk babies would protect them from developing allergies.
But it has since been shown the technique does not work.
Babies considered at high risk of developing food allergies are those who have a parent or sibling with a food allergy, asthma, allergic rhinitis or an allergic condition such as atopic dermatitis.
“Delaying dietary exposure to potential allergens like peanuts, fish or eggs will not reduce your child’s risk of developing a food allergy,” Dr. Edmond Chan, a pediatric allergist and co-author of the statement said in a statement.
“However, once a new food is introduced, it is important to continue to offer it regularly to maintain your child’s tolerance.”
The statement says that while these foods can be introduced into the diets of high-risk babies, the decision about timing can be based on the parents’s comfort level. Parents who are unsure to talk to their doctor, the Canadian Pediatric Society says.
“We also don’t recommend avoiding milk, egg, peanut or other foods while pregnant or breastfeeding,” says Dr. Carl Cummings, who is also a co-author of the statement.
“There is no evidence to support the theory that avoiding certain foods during this time will prevent allergies in children.”
Dr. Anne Ellis, chair of the allergy and immunology division at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., says the statement echoes U.S. and British expert recommendations. In 2000, expert panels in those two countries recommended delaying the introduction of foods with high-risk allergenic potential for various durations post-birth.
“This Canadian statement builds upon the available evidence and thus provides Canadians with an expert opinion statement with co-authors from the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology which will provide Canadians and their doctors alike with a local reference to rely on,” Ellis says.
Food allergies affect about seven per cent of Canadians. The pediatric society says some research suggests food allergy in babies is increasing, affecting over 10 per cent of one-year-olds.