Reduce Risk for Food Allergies in Infants

Posted in Nutrition Tips / Infant Nutrition

Reduce Risk for Food Allergies in Infants

May is Food Allergy Awareness Month in Canada, and Food Allergy Canada reports over 3 million Canadians are affected by food allergy. Dietitian, Brooke Bulloch joined Chris on Global News Morning to discuss how care providers can help prevent development of food allergy in infants (watch clip here).

What is food allergy?
A medical condition where the body’s immune system mistakenly treats a food (usually the protein in the food) as if it’s dangerous to you. The body reacts to the allergen by having an allergic reaction (shown in the skin, the gastrointestinal system or the respiratory system). The reactions can range from mild to severely life-threatening (e.g. anaphylaxis).

What are the priority food allergens?
While people can be allergic to any food, there are 10 in particular that people seem to develop allergies to more often. These include: eggs, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, sesame, soybeans, milk, and mustard.

Can you help to prevent food allergy? Short answer is yes! The most recent recommendations are based on the LEAP study – a randomized trial called 'Learning About Peanuts' - and supported by the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Dietitians of Canada, and the Canadian Pediatric Society. What we have learned is that:Delaying introduction of allergenic foods past 6 months of age is NOT effective to prevent food allergies;Introducing around 6 months may decrease the risk of an infant developing food allergies, including infants at high risk for developing a food allergy (ie. those with a parent or sibling with an allergic condition, severe eczema and/or an egg allergy). This guidance will not stop all babies from developing food allergy, but it has been shown to drop the rates of food allergy substantially.

How to offer allergenic foods to baby?
One allergenic food at a time so you can pinpoint the culprit food if baby does react;Offer a small amount to baby (fed by the care giver so that baby fully ingests it orally), wait a few hours and if no reaction noted, offer more of that same allergen later in the same day;If baby seems to be tolerating, be sure to offer a few times a week after that point to maintain tolerance (e.g. peanut = 2 tsp 3 times weekly).

For more information or 1:1 support, reach out to our pediatric dietitian Robyn Price.