Guide to the PETIT Study and Egg Allergy – Ready, Set, Food!
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A Parent’s Guide to the PETIT Study

What did the PETIT study reveal about preventing egg allergies in babies? What do the findings mean for your family? What is stepwise introduction, and how is it related to the PETIT study? This article covers everything parents need to know about the PETIT study.

Thanks to the landmark PETIT study, we now know that gradually introducing babies to eggs early and often reduces their risk of developing an egg allergy. But how was the PETIT study conducted, what exactly did the study reveal, and what do the findings mean for your family? In this article, we’ll break down everything parents need to know about the PETIT study.

The PETIT Study: Overview

In the PETIT study, babies with eczema either ate or avoided egg for six months, to see if early, consistent and gradual introduction of egg reduced their risk of egg allergy. Because of their eczema, these babies were at high risk for egg allergy.

Here’s everything parents need to know about the PETIT study:

What was the purpose of the PETIT study?

To see if gradually and consistently introducing egg to babies with eczema helps reduce their risk of developing an egg allergy

Where and when did the study take place?

Japan, between September 2012 and February 2015

Who took part in the PETIT study?

  • 147 healthy Japanese infants with eczema
  • Ages 4-5 months old
  • Their eczema made them high risk for egg allergy

How was the PETIT study conducted?

  • The babies were randomly assigned to either consume egg or avoid egg for 6 months
  • The babies’ parents and doctors didn’t know which group each baby was in
  • Babies who consumed egg ate heated egg powder mixed with squash
  • Babies who avoided egg ate only squash
  • Mothers continued to breastfeed during the study
  • The babies’ eczema was aggressively treated throughout the study

How much egg did the “consume” group eat? How often? What kind?

  • The “consume” group ate heated egg powder mixed with squash, daily for 6 months
  • Egg was introduced “stepwise:” starting with a lower dose, then moving to a higher dose
  • 50mg heated egg powder per day between 6-9 months of age
  • 250 mg heated egg powder per day between 9-12 months of age

How did the researchers check to see if the children developed an egg allergy?

A food challenge at 12 months, during which babies were exposed to 7 grams of egg in a clinical setting.

What did the results show?

  • Consuming egg early and consistently, and introducing the egg gradually, resulted in a ~79% reduction in egg allergies in high-risk infants
  • Gradually introducing egg to baby is a safe and effective approach to preventing egg allergy - This is known as the stepwise approach.

 

Breaking Down the Findings

The PETIT study’s results showed that introducing egg to babies with eczema early and often reduces their egg allergy risk. In fact, the study was stopped earlier than expected because, during a scheduled interim check, the researchers could already tell that introducing egg early and often was reducing the babies’ risk of developing egg allergies.

Out of the babies who reached and completed the egg challenge at the end of the study:

  • 23 of 61 babies (38%) in the group that avoided egg had an egg allergy.
  • Meanwhile, only 5 out of 60 babies (8%) in the group that consumed egg had an egg allergy.
  • Comparing these two groups, there’s a 78.95% difference. 

According to these results, introducing egg to babies with eczema starting at the age of 6 months, and sustaining daily exposure through the age of 12 months, reduced their risk of an egg allergy by ~79% (when combined with aggressive eczema management). 

PETIT and Stepwise Introduction

The PETIT study also showed that gradually starting egg introduction, by feeding baby a smaller dose of egg and then increasing to a larger dose, is a safe and effective approach to reducing the risk of an egg allergy for babies with eczema. This approach is known as a stepwise approach for introducing egg. 

As one reviewer of the study reported, “Stepwise egg introduction to infants with eczema appeared to be safe [because] no severe, immediate allergic reactions were reported at home.”

Life After the PETIT Study: What do the findings mean for your family?

The PETIT study shows that early, consistent and stepwise introduction of egg can help reduce your baby’s risk of developing an egg allergy. Here’s what parents should take away from the PETIT study:

  • Introducing your baby to egg starting between 4-6 months of age, and continuing for at least 6 months, can help reduce their risk of egg allergy by up to 79%. 
  • Delaying the introduction of egg increases babies’ food allergy risk. 
  • Stepwise (gradual) introduction of egg, starting with a smaller dose and then moving to a larger dose, is a safe and effective way to help reduce the risk of food allergies in babies. The PETIT study supports this approach.

It’s especially crucial to introduce egg to infants with eczema, because they are at a higher risk for food allergy.

     

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    All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

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    About the author: Our Chief Allergist, Katie Marks-Cogan, M.D., is board certified in Allergy/Immunology and Internal Medicine, and treats both pediatric and adult patients. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, she received her M.D. with honors from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She then completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Northwestern and fellowship in Allergy/Immunology at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania and CHOP. After finishing training, she moved to Southern California and currently works in private practice. She is a  member of the scientific advisory board for Ready, Set, Food! She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, 4-year-old son, and 1-year-old daughter where she enjoys hiking, building LEGO castles with her kids, and cooking with her family.

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