The USDA Guidelines for Preventing Food Allergies in Children

Whenever a baby turns six months, parents think it has got ready to start solids. It is also possible that certain food items may cause some kind of food allergies to the baby. So, it is quite sensible to introduce a few common allergens early on to help prevent food allergies in children. This is all in accordance with USDA Guidelines that really work wonders for your babies. The following is what we consider the best for you to learn in this regard.

Food Allergies in Babies

“A food allergy occurs when the body responds to proteins in foods that it mistakenly thinks are harmful”, says Dr Katie Marks-Cogan, a well-known Board-Certified Allergist. She is of the view that in addition to the presence of genes that determine whether or not a baby will develop food allergies, certain dietary and lifestyle factors are also responsible in this context. According to her, babies with eczema, for instance, are more likely to develop food allergies. Milk, eggs, peanuts, fish, tree nuts, shellfish, soy and wheat are mostly the foods that cause 90 percent of allergic reactions in the babies of the United States.

The status of food allergy guidelines over time

Whatever the reasons may be, food allergies in children are an increasing occurrence nowadays. Some more prevalent theories are:

  • Children get less exposed to allergens as infants. They get affected at a later time.
  • Children come across fewer bacteria in their daily life. 
  • Parents do have more awareness of food allergies. 

These and many more baseless theories have made the matter of food allergies in children an enigma that needs special focus of parents as well as doctors. A few years back, the answer to the question, “Should you feed your little baby a little scrambled egg?” would have been no. But today, it is yes. The latest recommendations as per several studies and expert opinions are quite contrary to the guidelines a decade ago. According to a new report by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the best way to prevent food allergies in babies is to expose them to allergenic  foods early on rather than delaying exposure.

The cause of changes in the food allergy guidelines

Earlier in 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics published guidelines regarding food allergies in babies. They were of the view that infants do not consume milk until their first birthday, eggs until age 2 and peanuts, tree nuts and fish until age 3. No evidence in support of these guidelines came on the scene and, hence, the guidelines were changed in 2008. Consequently, many parents got confused and cautious once again about the problem of food allergies and how to protect their children.

Pregnant mothers  restrained themselves from eating certain foods and left them out of their diet when they began nursing their newborn. They did so with the belief that these foods would cause a food allergy to their young ones. As a result, the children became less immune or tolerant of allergy-causing foods  which is partly why certain organizations like the USDA recommended new guidelines in the recent years.

The new food allergy guidelines

Early exposure to solid foods gradually prevents food allergies in infants and children. So, parents should introduce the basic foods like soft rice or oat cereal, fruits, and vegetables to the diet of their infants between four to six months of their age. Soon afterwards, moms can introduce their babies to the other allergenic foods as well. This is because,” avoidance of food allergens early on in infancy when the immune system is developing can play a role in developing allergies”, according to Dr Marks-Cogan.

“Allergic reactions are milder in children than in adults. That is why we believe that less than 1 year of age is the safest time to be introducing allergenic foods”, explains Dr Marks-Cogan.

Moms can still follow these safety measures when they are about to bring their infants to start solids.

  • Start solids around 4 to 6 months depending upon your infant’s readiness and watch for the allergic reactions.
  • Introduce the allergenic foods like eggs, cow’s milk, wheat or oat, etc. a few days after your baby has successfully tolerated the first complementary solids. 
  • Introduce peanuts or peanut butter mixed with warm water or purees to avoid any choking hazards to your infant. 
  • Always trust and follow your doctor’s advice if you find your little one suffering from any allergic symptoms.  

 

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