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Identifying and preventing allergies in infants

recognising and preventing allergies in infants

Identifying and preventing allergies in infants

The BSACI Paediatric Allergy Group (PAG) and the Food Allergy Specialist Group (FASG) of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) have developed guidance to identify allergies in higher risk infants and advice in early prevention of allergies. To find out more about prevention according to the new guidelines, keep reading.

Prevention

The BSACI has outlined a summary for parents to minimise the risk of allergies. The guide advises that prevention start from 6 months of age onwards.

6 months

Studies show that infants not breastfed were 3.6 times more likely to be hospitalised compared to those who exclusively breastfed for four months or more. Their recommended course of action goes like this:

  • Exclusive breastfeeding for around the first 6 months of life.
  • From around 6 months of age (but not before 4 months), introduce complementary foods (solids) – including foods known to cause food allergies – alongside continued breastfeeding.
  • Excluding egg and peanut from your baby’s diet is not strictly necessary as it is likely to increase the risk of food allergy.

Studies show that despite the relatively early introduction of solid foods, consumption of peanut and hen’s egg during infancy is not common practice with 73% of infants consuming less than one or no eggs per week; with 98% of infants consuming less than or no nuts.

Complementary foods should be pureed and offered in small amounts of vegetables, fruit, starchy foods, protein, and pasteurised dairy. Do not add salt or sugar.

Next step

Signs your baby is ready for solid foods include:

  • Being able to sit relatively unaided in a high chair, with their head steady.
  • Trying to reach out to grab food and put in their mouth.
  • Loss of the “tongue-thrust” reflex – babies who aren’t ready push the food back out with their tongue, so they get more around their face than they do in their mouths.

High risk

Babies who suffer from eczema are likely to be at a higher risk of allergies*. The BSACI advise that you should introduce egg and/or peanut earlier on in their diet (4 months of age), followed by other foods known to cause food allergies.

The benefits of allergy testing in higher-risk babies before introducing egg or peanut needs to be balanced against the risk this could cause a delay (due to lack of available testing) and increase the risk of food allergy.

*Some babies will already have food allergies, especially those with severe eczema. The risk of a severe reaction (anaphylaxis) is low (1-2 per 1000 in these babies). Speak to your healthcare professional before introducing egg and peanut if your baby has severe eczema.

Guide to egg and peanut

  • Egg – choose British lion-stamped eggs. Aim to give your child one egg over the course of the week.
  • Peanut – never give your baby whole nuts – make sure you chop them finely. The guide advises that you use smooth peanut butter, “puffed peanut” snacks or grind whole peanuts to a fine powder. Mix with pureed fruits/vegetables, yoghurt, porridge, baby cereals etc.

It can be a scary time in your life when you find out your child has food allergies. You worry the future will be filled with anxiety, but that doesn’t mean you and your child can’t live a normal life.

These guidelines are for infants who’s allergies have not yet been diagnosed. If you think your little one might have an allergy and would like further testing, get in touch today to book an appointment. To find out more about the BSACI, click here.

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