The changing approach to food allergies in children
1 in 13 children has a food allergy. That's roughly two kids in every classroom. May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, and the approach to food allergies is drastically changing.
It's time for a checkup, for 9-month-old Braelyn Vereen-Ray. Like most first time parents, Braelyn’s moms Ashley and Brandi, worry a lot. “I normally freak out of little things happen with her,” Brandi says.
And the rise in food allergies has given new parents another cause for concern. Common food allergies, include milk, eggs and nuts. Reactions can be serious, and even life threatening.
What's most shocking is the dramatic increase in food allergies in recent years. “What's fascinating is that in the last 20 years, allergies of all kinds, including food allergies have actually doubled roughly,” says Dr. Gaurav Kumar.
It's not a clear why. One possibility, the hygiene theory, basically says we've made our environments too clean with too few germs. “Our immune system has had less to do and therefore it's actually started reacting to other things," Dr. Kumar says.
In 2000, the American academy of pediatrics made a recommendation saying parents should avoid giving their children certain foods until later in a child's life. Avoid milk until age one, avoid eggs until age 2, avoid nuts until age 3.
But in 2008 they struck down those guidelines, saying it was unclear what the right age should be. “More recently there is actually really intriguing evidence that suggests that for certain kinds of things like peanuts and eggs, it may be beneficial to introduce them earlier in a child's life sometimes as early as four to six months of age,” Dr. Kumar says.
And that's the message Dr. Kumar is giving Braelyn’s parents today: begin introducing those foods in a safe manner, closely monitored at home. If a baby has a family history of food allergies, it should be done under the supervision of a doctor.
Ashley and Brandi are looking forward to branching out with Braelyn’s diet. They're pretty sure she's looking forward to it too.