Study Finds Allergen Introduction in Infancy May Help Prevent Allergies

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Allergy specialist suggests existing guidelines on introducing foods may be outdated
Allergy specialist suggests existing guidelines on introducing foods may be outdated

HealthDay News — Early introduction of egg and peanuts could help prevent 24 cases of egg allergy per 1,000 people and 18 cases of peanut allergy per 1,000 people, according to research published in the September 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers reviewed 146 previous studies that examined when babies were given foods that often trigger reactions, as well as their risk of food allergies or autoimmune diseases. They discovered that the timing of food introduction may affect allergy risk, but they found no similar link for autoimmune disease. 

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The researchers reported with moderate certainty that babies who were given eggs when they were 4 to 6 months old had a lower egg allergy risk (risk ratio, 0.56). Children given peanuts between 4 and 11 months of age had a lower peanut allergy risk than those who were older (risk ratio, 0.29). The evidence was not as strong for early introduction of fish. Timing of gluten introduction did not appear to affect the likelihood of celiac disease.

"Delay of introduction of these foods may be associated with some degree of potential harm, and early introduction of selected foods appears to have a well-defined benefit," Matthew Greenhawt, MD, an allergy specialist at Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora, writes in an editorial accompanying the study. "These important points should resonate with allergy specialists, primary care physicians, and other health care professionals who care for infants, as well as obstetricians caring for pregnant mothers, all of whom are important stakeholders in effectively conveying the message that guidance to delay allergen introduction is outdated."

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