Introduce complementary foods earlier to prevent allergy: paediatricians
Jan 24 2019
OTTAWA – Infants at high-risk of developing food allergy should be offered common allergenic foods at around six months – but not before four months – of age, according to a new guidance document from the Canadian Paediatric Society.
“We now know that, in high-risk kids, allergenic foods should be introduced at an early age,” said Dr. Elissa Abrams, chair of the CPS Allergy Section and a paediatric immunologist with the University of Manitoba. “For families with a history of allergies, these recommendations give them guidance on what they can do to help prevent the condition in their children.”
Babies are considered at high risk of developing food allergy if they have a personal history of atopy (e.g. eczema), or if they have a first-degree relative—such as a parent or sibling—with allergies.
Food allergy affects about 2 to 10 per cent of the population, so prevention is an important public health goal. The benefits of early food introduction are most highly correlated with preventing peanut and egg allergy, and its impact is significant: One study showed a risk reduction of up to 80 per cent when peanuts were introduced early.
“A Canadian framework provides clarity and consistency to families and primary care providers, and has the potential to significantly improve public health,” said Dr. Abrams, “but we need the medical community’s engagement to effect a cultural shift in early feeding practices.”
Recommendations from the CPS include:
- Introduce common allergenic foods to high-risk infants around six months of age, but not before four months – guided by the infant’s developmental readiness for food.
- Introduce common allergens one at a time, but without unnecessary delay between foods.
- Offer common allergens regularly once introduced, in order to maintain tolerance.
- Continued breastfeeding should be protected and supported because of its many health benefits.
- The texture and size of any complementary food should be age-appropriate to prevent choking.
Babies who are not considered high risk should start to receive complementary foods when they are around 6 months old and show signs of developmental readiness.
About the Canadian Paediatric Society
The Canadian Paediatric Society is a national advocacy association that promotes the health needs of children and youth. Founded in 1922, the CPS represents more than 3,300 paediatricans, paediatric subspecialists and other child health professionals across Canada.
For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact:
Media Relations Specialist
Canadian Paediatric Society
613-526-9397, ext. 247