According to new recommendations from a leading group of doctors, infants at risk of food allergies should be introduced to suspect foods early in order to build up tolerance.

These recommendations were recently published by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in theJournal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.

Changing Recommendations

Parents were previously told to avoid giving babies commonly allergenic foods such as fish, eggs, and peanut butter. As recently as 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines recommending delaying allergenic foods until as late as the age of 3. Now, it is thought that giving babies such foods before the age of 6 months could play a role in preventing food allergies from developing.

“There’s been more studies that find that if you introduce them early it may actually prevent food allergy,” commented David Fleischer, who co-authored the article and is a pediatric allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver. “We need to get the message out now to pediatricians, primary-care physicians and specialists that these allergenic foods can be introduced early.”

Training the Immune System

According to one theory, if babies are not exposed to allergenic foods early enough, their immune systems will treat them as foreign substances, resulting in an allergic reaction.

“The body has to be trained in the first year of life,” explains Katie Allen, a professor and allergist at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia. “We think there’s a critical window, probably around 4 to 6 months, when the child first starts to eat solids,” she says.

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