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No need to delay introduction of food allergens to high-risk babies

Dec 2 2013

OTTAWA — Babies who are at high risk of developing a food allergy can be exposed to potential food allergens as early as 6 months of age, according to a joint statement by the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) and Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI).

“Delaying dietary exposure to potential allergens like peanuts, fish or eggs will not reduce your child’s risk of developing a food allergy,” said Dr. Edmond Chan, paediatric allergist and co-author of the statement. “However, once a new food is introduced, it is important to continue to offer it regularly to maintain your child’s tolerance.”

Babies are considered at high risk of developing a food allergy if they have a parent or sibling with an allergic condition, such as atopic dermatitis, a food allergy, asthma or allergic rhinitis. The statement says that while these foods can be introduced to high-risk babies, the decision about when should be individualized and based on the parents’ comfort level. The CPS advises parents who are unsure to talk to their physician.

“We also don’t recommend avoiding milk, egg, peanut or other foods while pregnant or breastfeeding,” said Dr. Carl Cummings, co-author of the statement and chair of the CPS Community Paediatrics Committee. “There is no evidence to support the theory that avoiding certain foods during this time will prevent allergies in children.”

Food allergies affect approximately 7 per cent of Canadians. Some research suggests food allergy in babies is increasing, affecting over 10 per cent of one-year-olds.

The statement is endorsed by Dietitians of Canada.

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The Canadian Paediatric Society is a national professional association that promotes the health needs of children and youth. Founded in 1922, the CPS represents more than 3,000 paediatricians, paediatric subspecialists and other child health professionals across Canada.

The Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology works to advance the knowledge and practice of allergy, clinical immunology, and asthma for optimal patient care. The Society is also dedicated to improving the quality of life of people with allergies through research, advocacy, and continuing professional development and public education.

Last updated: Mar 24 2014