Dec 5, 2016

Dr. Gellner: Introducing new foods to your baby can be a fun, but scary time. New guidelines show that feeding babies certain foods might help with food allergies. I'll talk more about this on today's Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering the Healthy Kids Zone with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: Food allergies are pretty common. We all know someone with food allergies, or are someone like me that deals with food allergies. Up to 15 million people in the United States have food allergies, including 1 in every 13 children. Food allergies happen when the body's immune system mistakenly thinks harmless food proteins are the enemy and launches an attack, triggering an allergic reaction.

Cow's milk, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts account for 90% of all allergic reactions to foods in the United States, with the onset of such allergies typically occurring in childhood. These reactions can cause symptoms such as hives, an itchy mouth, swelling of the tongue or throat, vomiting, or in severe cases, an anaphylactic shock. Some studies say early exposure to those foods reduces the allergy risk. Other studies don't show that it helps. So while the researchers are figuring this all out, the guidelines for feeding your infant is no longer to hold off on high-allergy foods.

Now, if there's a family history of allergies to a particular food, like tree nuts for example, you may want to be cautious. I've got so many food allergies, I was terrified to feed my boys new foods. The good news is the tendency to be allergic to something is inherited, but not necessarily the specific allergy, and my boys have no food allergies that we know of right now.

The most recent research did show that introducing eggs and peanut butter to infants between 4 to 11 months old decreased the risk of allergies to those two foods by anywhere from 40 to 70%. Notice I said "peanut butter," you do not want to be giving actual peanuts which are choking hazards to young babies. Same goes for no chunky peanut butter.

When it came to fish, the researcher showed that introducing fish to babies, ages 6 months to 12 months, lower the risk of allergies. Interestingly, the age a child is first introduced to gluten had surprisingly no effect on celiac disease or gluten intolerance. The researchers think that the immune properties of the intestine, rather than the allergen touching the skin or being inhaled, triggers a different response in the body.

So go ahead, explore new foods with your baby, except chocolate and honey, those are still off the list for under 12 months old. And if your baby does have any signs of an allergy, your pediatrician can do labs to confirm the allergy, or refer you to a pediatric allergist to help. The only way to treat food allergies though, sadly, is to completely avoid that food.

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