Food allergies affect more than 7 percent of the Canadian population, and it certainly seems like allergies are on the rise in children. When my son was born (four years ago to the day, as a matter of fact), common practice was to delay introduction of common food allergens (eggs, nuts, fishes) until at least one year, to protect babies from developing allergies.
Well, on my son's fourth birthday, there's been a new development in these theories.
In a statement released December 2, 2013, the Canadian Paediatric Society says they no longer feel there is merit in waiting to introduce food allergens to babies. Can you see my surprised face from there? This is big news, people! Babies as young as six months of age can indulge in peanut buttery goodness, without risk of developing an allergy. This doesn't change the fact that some will have allergies, of course, but the fact that avoiding allergens doesn't offer any protection against them is the key here. Delaying isn't a protective measure.
Dr. Edmond Chan, co-author of the paper states, "Delaying dietary exposure to potential allergens like peanuts, fish or eggs, will not reduce your child's risk of developing a food allergy." Wait, what's that? So my munching on PB&J while pregnant wasn't the cause of my son's peanut allergy? This is validation! In addition, the paper also notes that pregnant and breastfeeding women are also able to eat allergens without fear of causing an allergy, says Dr. Carl Cummings.
The paper does note that for higher-risk babies (including those who have a parent or sibling with an allergic condition such as atopic dermatitis, food allergies, asthma or allergic rhinitis), the decision to introduce these foods as early as six months may be intimidating to parents, and suggest that parents of these babies consult with their doctors before making the decision.
I'm happy to know that the study of allergy causation are still happening, and that we're starting to understand more about how and why they happen. It'll be an amazing day when they can pinpoint causes, but for now, I'm really happy to read this development. You can read the full release HERE.
Would you introduce food allergens earlier based on this new paper?