I have written several articles here about allergy problems. Mainly I have written about how allergies affect the nose, sinuses and even the throat and lungs. In my practice I frequently get asked questions about food allergy. Many of these questions come from parents of small children who have food allergies that cause skin rashes, known as eczema. They also can cause nasal congestion and repeated ear infections.
As part of my evaluation of any allergy patient some food allergy testing is usually included. This information helps us to guide changes to the diet. Conventionally we have been taught that treatment of food allergy is mainly avoiding eating the offending food.
Recently some excellent information has been published based on groundbreaking research in avoiding development of food allergy in young children. From about 1980 until 2010 the recommendations were to avoid foods that might trigger allergy in young children. This was mainly cow’s milk, peanuts and occasionally aches. Many of us have heard about children having peanut allergy so severe that even minor exposure can trigger serious reaction including swelling of the throat and airway. If a baby was born into a family where an older sibling had peanut allergy the standard thinking was in that infant avoid any exposure to peanut.
The new and somewhat exciting information shows that this type of thinking is wrong. In around the year 2010 researchers noted that in Israel there is almost no peanut allergy and children. One reason is that infants there starting teething are given peanut puffs as a snack. They look somewhat like cheese puffs but are made of peanuts. And in Israel this early exposure at a young age was the key to minimal peanut allergy and the children there.
Researchers in the United States have duplicated this in the last 8 years or so. The key that I want to convey to you is that to avoid development of food allergy the recommendations are breast-feeding if at all possible until age 6 months. At approximately age 4 months to 6 months standard adult foods should be introduced. They should have a wide variety of foods at this age including peanuts, cow’s milk and eggs. Obviously if there is a definite moderate to severe allergy that is noted by either eczema or nasal congestion then food reduction or elimination can be done. But it appears that the key for children not to develop food allergy is a wide variety of food introduced at a young age such as 6 months.