Kids and allergies: Knowing the trends

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – In the last 15 years, there has been an explosion in the number of children with food allergies – the number tripling among those with a peanut allergy.

Studies are showing a trend that introducing kids to food allergens is a better idea, and that waiting will increase their risk in developing allergies.

Pediatric allergist Dr. Jeffrey Factor specializes in food allergies at the Connecticut Asthma and Allergy Center. Treating babies — allergic to foods — is pretty routine.

“These are positive skin tests,” Factor says as he inspects a baby. “This is milk and egg.”

But this baby — did test negative for peanut.

“The chances are very good, that if you wait a year or two before giving him peanut butter, that he’ll develop a peanut allergy,” he said.

His recommendation?

“Put a little bit of peanut butter on a spoon, let him lick it off and then if he likes it, give to him at a regular basis.”

Exposure before turning one, Dr. Factor says boosts the child’s immunity to food allergies.

“A lot of it is what happens in the GI tract – the gut,” he said. “The immune system can become tolerant to these foods earlier on because the immune system is a little bit more pliable, a little bit less rigid than in older children.”

And that makes it less likely to develop a food allergy.

Two-year-old Tatum Tabacco just got tested positive for a lobster allergy.

“Even though it was just hives and we could have said, alright, we won’t give her lobster again, it’s best to know what else in that family of foods could make her react that way and maybe the next time it’s worst,” said Tatum’s mom, Meredith.

Like most parents, Meredith Tabacco delayed feeding her three girls peanut.

“I did wait for peanut butter until they were over two but generally I’m fairly open to giving them different foods,” she said.

“Within the past two years, the American Academy of Pediatrics which had made those recommendations has back pedaled,” Factor said. “They said don’t necessarily wait to introduce those foods, maybe it’s helpful if we give it earlier, maybe not.”

For Dr. Factor, the best approach is what he  prescribes.

“When you are treating a high risk infant population such as I do, I think this is the best way to go.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics says the recommendation is that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first year of life and that solid foods may be introduced around six months of age.

Earlier restrictions on moms and babies diets — no longer on the list.

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