Early Allergen Introduction: Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan Answers Your Questions!

Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan, pediatric and adult allergist, answers your questions about early allergen introduction, eczema, and breastfeeding.

Welcome to Ask Dr. Katie, an ongoing series of Q&A's from our head allergist and mom of two, Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan. Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan is board certified in Allergy/Immunology and Internal Medicine, and treats both pediatric and adult patients. She is a member of the scientific advisory board for Ready. Set. Food! To learn more about Dr. Katie, visit Our Story page. If you would like your question to be featured in an upcoming video, message us on Facebook, Instagram, or contact us at help@readysetfood.com

affect a child’s quality of life:

Can’t I just feed my baby real peanuts, eggs, and milk? Can’t I do it myself?

(0:27- 2:05) Great question, this is one that I get often from my patients. The answer is yes, you can do early and sustained allergen introduction by yourself by giving your baby foods with peanut, egg, and milk. However, because you have to wait until your baby is mature enough to eat solids, this can be a challenge because many babies are not ready to eat solid food until at least 6 months of age, if not later. The landmark clinical trials on early and sustained allergen introduction actually suggest that it may be more beneficial to give babies allergenic foods closer to 4 months of age. In addition, it can be a time consuming process because you can’t just give these foods to your baby once and then forget about them. These same clinical studies also suggest that you have to give allergenic foods on a consistent and frequent basis in order to have the most benefit in terms of trying to safely introduce allergens. I actually did early allergen introduction with my son when he was a baby, and it was difficult because I had to prepare all the food, keep track of how often I was giving the allergens, and make sure that all the food was getting into his mouth and not on his face or on his bib, so I do understand that it can be a frustrating process. This is basically the main reason that my colleagues and I created Ready. Set. Food! - because we wanted to make this process easier for families.

My daughter has eczema, would you still recommend early allergen introduction?

(2:16- 3:16) About 9-10 million children in the United States under the age of 18 have a specific form of eczema called atopic dermatitis. It’s basically caused by a malfunction in the immune system and a problem with the skin barrier. Children with atopic dermatitis develop red, rashy, and itchy skin. We know that children with atopic dermatitis have a higher risk of developing food allergies and recent landmark studies have shown that early and sustained allergen introduction is particularly important in this group of children. However, if your baby has severe eczema, then current national guidelines recommend that they receive allergy testing prior to the introduction of specific allergenic foods. So if you’re unsure about the severity of your child’s eczema, I’d recommend speaking to your pediatrician or your allergist to find out if early and sustained allergen introduction is right for you.

Can’t I just eat peanuts, egg, and milk while I’m pregnant or breastfeeding? Won’t that reduce my baby’s risk?

(3:27- 3:54) Great question, and one that I think a lot of moms wonder about. Currently, scientists do not believe that specific maternal diets during pregnancy or breastfeeding can be protective against food allergy, but this area is still being studied. So, current national guidelines still recommend that early and sustained allergen introduction be part of a baby’s feeding routine regardless of mom’s diet.

To learn more about how Ready. Set. Food! makes early allergen introduction easy, visit our How it Works page.

Introduce Allergens Safely and Easily with Ready. Set. Food!

About the author:

Our head 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, 3 year old son, and 8 month old daughter where she enjoys hiking, building LEGO castles with her son, and cooking with her family.

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.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  If your infant has severe eczema, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.