Update: Why is the Advice on Food Allergies so Confusing?

peanuts
Mason’s been eating solids for about five months now and at 10-months-old he’s just starting, somewhat grudgingly, to get into finger foods. He’s also at the point where he can try lots of new things, however, I find the expert studies on when to introduce allergenic foods such as peanuts and fish to babies to be totally confusing.

And there’s lots out there to be confused about. For starters, nearly 6 million children (1 out of every 13 kids) has a food allergy, according to a new study. That’s more kids with food allergies than ever before–and experts aren’t exactly sure why. I’m gluten intolerant so I worry about my son inheriting an intolerance as well. And did I mention we both have eczema–another risk factor for developing food allergies?

Then there’s the study that came out last week. Despite the rise in food allergies, Holly Lebowitz Rossi reported last Friday that the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine asserts that there’s less reason to worry about highly allergenic food such as cow’s milk, hen’s egg, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and gluten. According to the report, feeding this stuff to your child before the age of six months is not associated with increased incidence of eczema or wheezing in either infancy or later childhood.

With all of these studies and different experts weighing in, how are moms supposed to know what to do? For answers I called my pediatrician, who is based in New York City’s Gramercy Park neighborhood. “The new data is all over the map,” he agreed. “But the important takeaway is to just try little bits of the more allergenic foods, like peanuts and fish, at a time. That way you won’t be faced with a giant problem if there’s a reaction.”

Makes good sense. I’m a worrywart but I’m just going to have to dive in and follow my gut as well as Mason’s lead. What about you? Do you think the studies are confusing? How do you decide when to start your babe on more allergenic foods?

*Photo from allezpancakecafe.wordpress.com

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  1. by Amy P

    On June 21, 2011 at 11:01 am

    I find that it’s incredibly confusing for adults, so I can’t imagine how hard it makes the decisions when tiny kids are involved. I think that there will always be competing studies so following your gut and Mason’s lead and seeing how he reacts to small doses of things might make the most sense at this point. Good luck!

  2. by Berit Thorkelson

    On June 21, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I’m totally confused by it too. And a little scared. We’re still waiting for a good time to introduce shellfish, since my family has a history of allergies. To make matters worse, my son has had hives a few times and they tell me if it is a reaction to food, it could be anything he’s ingested in the past 48 hours. Now that he’s 16 months & eating anything and everything, that’s a long list!

  3. by Susan

    On June 25, 2011 at 11:18 am

    It’s very confusing. Then add in having a child with an allergy, and any more kids my husband and I have will now have an even higher likelihood of an allergy — and no predicting what it could be. My husband has seasonal allergies, and to cats. I have pet allergies (if there’s fur, I’m allergic it seems), dust, mold, pollens (too many to list). Neither of us has any food allergies — or anyone in our families. And our daughter, who had HORRIBLE eczema starting at 4 months (before having any solids) has a Class 3 peanut allergy — anaphylactic.

    All I know is I won’t give any other children we have any of the top 8 foods until they are able to communicate to me they are having a reaction — if my daughter had been any younger (2.5 years when given peanut butter cookie, that she didn’t eat half of) I don’t think we would have caught it until it was too late. And we’re still holding back on finishing introductions with her (tree nuts should be fine, according to her blood work — but it’s hard to find safe ones, and I’m not ready to deal with another possible reaction!)

  4. by Heather Morgan Shott

    On June 26, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Susan–How scary! Sounds like you’ve made a very smart decision. Thank goodness your daughter is OK.

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