Parents warned to start allergenic foods early

17 May 2018

Parents are being encouraged to feed their babies allergenic foods early to reduce the likelihood of them developing food allergies later in life.

Director of the Queensland Paediatric Immunology and Allergy Service at the Queensland Children’s Hospital Dr Jane Peake said misinformation and anxiety about food allergies had made parents too hesitant to introduce the foods early.

“Some parents wait until their child is 12 months or older before they start introducing common allergenic foods – but by this time, it could be too late,” Dr Peake said.

“Recent studies have shown that introducing common allergenic foods such as peanut butter, eggs, dairy and wheat products in the first year of life can prevent food allergy.

“Parents are advised to start to introduce solid foods between four and six months when their baby is ready. Once a baby is eating a range of solids, foods commonly associated with allergy, should then be tried.”

Dr Peake said, if possible, mothers should also continue to breastfeed while introducing foods to infants.

“There is some evidence that this may reduce the risk of food allergies developing, and there are many other health benefits of continued breast feeding,” she said.

Dr Peake said while it was natural for parents to be cautious, serious food allergy reactions were very rare.

“We recommended parents try introducing one food type at a time, and around one or two days apart. This will help identify if the new food causes a reaction,” she advised.

“It is also always best to try a new food in the morning, because you then have the rest of the day to see if a reaction occurs.”

“If a child shows any of the signs or symptoms of a severe reaction (breathing and speaking difficulties, a wheeze or persistent cough, swelling of the tongue and/or throat, loss of consciousness and/or collapse), call 000 immediately.

“If you think your child may be experiencing a less serious reaction and are concerned, always seek advice from your GP and, if appropriate, ask to be referred to a paediatric allergist.”

“It is important to note that minor redness around the mouth is most often due to irritation, and is not typically an allergic reaction,” Dr Peake said.

Once an allergenic food has been introduced, it should become part of the child’s regular diet.

For more information about infant feeding and allergy prevention see www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergy-prevention and for more general information on food allergies see www.foodallergyaware.com.au/ and www.allergyfacts.org.au

ENDS

Media contact: 3068 5608