Study: Infants are not as susceptible as older children to food allergens, and if exposed early, less likely to develop allergies

If you’re wary of exposing an infant to food that might be allergic, think again. New medical guidelines say that infants should be exposed to potentially allergic foods because that makes them less likely to develop allergies.

A study done in conjunction with the new guidance  found that food-induced, multiple-symptom allergic reactions that can cause death in older children and toddlers have a much milder effect in infants.

The study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology out of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago shows that infants under the age of 1 are much less susceptible to the severe side effects of food-induced allergic reactions, such as death, than their older peers.

The study was a reaction to new guidelines from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that encourage parents to introduce their children to foods with peanuts between four and six months. This new recommendation contrasts with previous advice to avoid introducing young children to peanut products. Now, the institute claims that if introduced early on to potential allergens, children are less likely to develop food allergies.

Waheeda Samady, a doctor at Lurie Children’s Hospital, said in a press release that with the new guidelines, “It is understandable that parents might be fearful of triggering a serious reaction”, but said the new research should be “reassuring.”

The researchers examined 357 cases of children with food-induced allergies i 2015-17. Of these, 47 were infants (under the age of 1), 43 were toddlers between 1 and 2; 96 were 2 to 6; and 171 were school-aged children over 6. They found that 83 percent of the infants in the study experienced vomiting due to exposure, but none died. Still, the researchers warned that anytime an infant has a negative reaction to trying a new food, the child’s primary doctor should be consulted or 911 should be called.

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