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How To Introduce Your Infant to Common Allergens

About 32 million Americans have food allergies, including 1 of every 13 children. So how can you know if your child has food allergies? And is there a way to help stop the emergence of a food allergy?

The good news is that by introducing your child early to common foods that have a potential for triggering allergies, you may be able to bolster their immune system and protect them against allergic reactions. 

Smita Tandon, MD, of Dr 2 Kids, in Fountain Valley, California, can help you to establish a food introduction plan and work with you if food allergies emerge. With planning and persistence, you may be able to help your child sidestep common food allergies. 

Common food allergies

There are more than 170 foods recognized as causing food allergies for some people, but in the United States, eight foods or food groups cause the majority of serious allergic reactions. These are:

Allergies to sesame is also an emerging issue, though it’s not yet as common as the other eight. 

The power of the immune system

It was once the conventional wisdom to avoid giving children certain foods until they were several years old to bypass the potential for serious reactions. The problem with this is that it sidesteps an important window in the development of a child’s immune system. 

As we know now, it takes time for the body to develop protections against things like viruses and allergens. So exposing babies to certain foods, such as eggs and peanuts, as early as 4-6 months of age can actually help their developing immune systems protect them against allergic reactions. You can think of it as “food immunization.” This can help their bodies learn early how to handle foods that might otherwise cause issues.

The four rules for food introduction

Consult with Dr. Tandon about a food introduction program, and when you get the green light, keep these points in mind: 

  1. Start early to take advantage of the crucial window of immune system development 
  2. Introduce one food at a time, every few days, to observe reactions to each food
  3. Begin with a low dose and slowly step up to higher amounts
  4. Repeat the exposure several times a week, for at least 3-6 months

Maintaining a food introduction program takes planning, and it can be hard to remain consistent, but both are important. Compare it to other immunizations, where your child receives an initial vaccine and gets booster shots later. A single sample of a particular food is unlikely to create tolerance. 

Be sure to introduce foods in a form that’s suitable for your child’s age. For instance, peanut butter is better than giving peanuts whole or in pieces. Eggs should be well-cooked. You can mix the food being tested with your baby’s other food, gradually increasing amounts over time. Start with about ¼ teaspoon and increase by ½ teaspoon if no reaction is noted. 

To develop a food introduction plan, or to get help if your child encounters a food reaction, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dr 2 Kids today for an in-person visit or telehealth meeting.

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