Open Accessibility Menu

Ah nuts! Food allergies and children

Published in Allergy & Asthma Services, For the Health of It Author: Kristin Johnson, Pediatric Registered Dietitian

Food allergies are a growing public health concern, so even parents of kids without allergies are becoming more aware of the prevalence and impact of food allergies. As a pediatric registered dietitian, peanut allergies continue to be a hot topic. I help families avoid diagnosed food allergens and offer advice on how to prevent children from developing a life-threatening allergy.

Eight foods attribute to 90 percent of all food allergies:

  • cow’s milk
  • soy
  • egg
  • wheat
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • fish
  • shellfish

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published the results of a clinical trial based on observations that Jewish children in the United Kingdom were 10 times more likely to have peanut allergies than Jewish children in Israel. Unlike children in the UK, Israeli children consume peanut-containing foods early in life.

Researchers identified 600 infants at high risk for peanut allergies, due to an identified egg allergy or eczema, between 4 to 11 months of age. The infants were randomly assigned to either strictly avoid peanuts or to regularly include 6 grams of peanut protein per week in the infant’s diet. This was continued until 5 years of age. They found an overall 81 percent reduction of peanut allergy in children who began early, continuous consumption of peanuts compared to those who avoided peanuts.

It is great that the results of the recently published clinical trial have spurred national interest, discussion and awareness. For many, it is perceived as an entirely new allergy recommendation.

However for pediatric and allergy health professionals, such as myself, this further validates the 2012 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology advising early introduction of allergenic foods. We have been teaching parents these guidelines for the past few years. As I discuss these guidelines with parents, they are usually surprised to hear that their infant can trial peanut butter and scrambled eggs at a young age.

If the results of this study hold true, we many potentially begin to see a decline in allergies in years to come.

Read part two of Kristin’s blog to learn how to prevent food allergies in children.

If parents have any questions regarding food allergies or introduction of baby foods, it is always best to speak to your child’s doctor, allergist or dietitian to get the latest information and recommendations that are individualized to your infant.