New research shows that before your baby turns 1 is the safest time to feed them common allergy-causing foods, like peanut, egg, and milk. We break down these research findings and what they mean for families.
“Babies have the fewest severe allergic reactions of any age group, with the severity of allergic reactions increasing as the child gets older, by the two different severity scales.” – Dr. Jonathan Spergel, Head of Allergy at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
New research shows:
- “Severe (food allergic) reactions and mortality…are particularly low in infants,” with no food allergy deaths ever reported in infants under the age of 1.
- Allergic reactions get more severe as your baby gets older, so starting as early as possible is the safest way to feed allergens to your baby
- Before your baby turns 1 is the safest time to feed them allergens like peanut, egg, and milk.
When someone eats a food that they’re allergic to, the allergic reaction they have could be mild, but it could also be life-threatening. Because of this, many parents are concerned about whether it’s safe to feed allergy-causing foods (like peanut, egg, and milk) to their babies.
Fortunately, new research from Dr. Peter Capucilli, Dr. Jonathan Spergel (Head of Allergy at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) and others shows that it’s safe to feed these foods to your baby. In fact, feeding peanut, egg, and milk to your baby early and often helps reduce their risk of developing a food allergy. We break down what families need to know about these findings.
Research Findings: What Parents Need To Know
Dr. Spergel, Dr. Capucilli, and other researchers reviewed the results of all the oral food challenges that took place at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Vanderbilt University between September 2016 and February 2019.
Oral food challenges are tests used to determine whether someone has a food allergy. During these challenges:
- People are exposed to foods that might cause a reaction in small doses that slowly increase
- Doctors closely watch for signs of an allergic reaction
The researchers tracked severe allergic reactions that took place during the food challenges, across five age groups:
- Infants under age 1
- Toddlers ages 1-2
- Young children ages 3-5
- Older children ages 6-12
- Teens ages 13-18
Severe allergic reactions were:
- Reactions where an Epi-pen was needed, or
- Reactions where notable cardiovascular (CV) or lower respiratory (LR) symptoms were involved.
The researchers also examined food allergy mortality data from The National Food Allergy Death Registry.
After reviewing the data, the researchers found:
- Severe allergic reactions are the least common in infants under age 1.
- Infants and toddlers had significantly fewer severe reactions with CV or LR symptoms than the older age groups.
- Only 3% of allergic reactions in infants resulted in these symptoms
- Infants and toddlers also had fewer reactions that required an Epi-pen.
- The older a child was, the greater the chances that they would develop a severe reaction.
- Food allergies did not cause any deaths under the age of 1.
As Dr. Spergel reports, “Babies have the fewest severe allergic reactions of any age group, with the severity of allergic reactions increasing as the child gets older, by the two different severity scales.” He continues, “No food allergy deaths have been reported in infants under age 1, with food allergy deaths being highest in teens and young adults. However, the reporting of food allergy deaths is not exact and cases may have been missed.”
What does this mean for families?
These findings show that, when infants do have allergic reactions, they tend to be mild. So it’s safe to introduce them to common allergy-causing foods like peanut, egg, and milk. Infancy, before your child turns 1, is the safest time to introduce these foods.
In fact, the research concludes, since “severe (food allergic) reactions and mortality…are particularly low in infants,” this supports “early allergen oral introduction” starting before a child turns one.
What exactly does this mean for families? Clinical guidelines recommend that you feed your baby peanut, egg, and milk early and often, to reduce their food allergy risk.
Between 4-11 months of age, babies enter a critical immune window. During this time, their immune system starts to develop either a positive or negative response to foods.
Feeding your baby peanut, egg, and milk 2-7 times a week, and continuing this for several months, promotes a positive immune response. This reduces your baby’s chances of developing an allergy to these foods.
So, don’t be afraid to introduce common allergy-causing foods early and often. Not only is it safe, but it will also give your baby the best chance at food freedom later in life