Childhood Food Allergy Prevention: Q&A With a Pediatrician Mom
Dr. Jessica Hochman, board-certified pediatrician and mother of three, answers your childhood food allergy prevention questions.
What do you tell parents about food allergy prevention?
Parents often tell me they're not worried about food allergies because it's not in their family. This is a common misconception - most kids with food allergies (>50%) have no family history. Many parents are also afraid to feed their babies potentially allergenic foods like peanuts, but we now know that introducing these foods early and often may be the best approach to avoid food allergies.
The link between early exposure to allergens and low allergy rates was first observed in Israel, where infants are fed peanut very early on and peanut allergies are rare (0.17% prevalence as compared to 1.7% in the UK and 1.4% in the US). This observation was confirmed in multiple clinical trials (such as the LEAP and PETIT studies), where infants who were fed allergenic foods starting at 4-11 months had a significantly reduced risk of developing allergies to those foods. These studies also showed it was not enough to feed these foods once, but they had to be eaten multiple times a week for several months.
Based on these studies and new national guidelines, I recommend that parents introduce allergenic foods into their baby’s diet starting around 4-6 months (and as late as 11 months) and continue to feed these foods for several months.
If my baby is older than 6 months, is it too late to introduce allergens?
Although earlier exposure is favorable, I feel it is never too late to start! Many parents worry that their baby will have a reaction, but research has shown that allergic reactions are much less severe in younger infants than in toddlers and older children, so parents should not delay. Anaphylaxis, or severe allergic reactions, tend to happen more as children get older.
Is eating peanut, egg, and milk while breastfeeding and pregnant enough to prevent food allergies?
A lot of parents tell me they think breastfeeding is enough. Unfortunately, this is not true. While breastfeeding has many benefits, current research suggests it is not enough to prevent allergies. National medical guidelines recommend that even moms who are exclusively breastfeeding do early and sustained introduction starting at 4-6 months to help reduce the risk of developing food allergies.
What do you tell parents of babies with eczema?
Approximately 30% of babies with eczema will develop food allergies, so early allergen introduction is particularly important for this high-risk group. National medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Institutes of Health recommend that parents of babies with eczema begin allergen introduction at 4 months, and it is extremely important to not delay introduction in this group. That being said, if your baby has severe eczema, current guidelines recommend they get allergy tested prior to introduction.
Why do you recommend Ready, Set, Food!?
I've been recommending early allergen introduction, but I was concerned about choking, dose, and how parents would sustain exposure. I love Ready, Set, Food! because:
Controlled doses to maximize safety and efficacy- Ready, Set, Food! uses the same doses as the studies and introduces one food at a time per AAP guidelines. A lot of parents ask how much to feed and how often, and this product takes out all the guesswork. It is the safest way to introduce peanut, egg, and milk to your baby.
Makes it easy to start early and SUSTAIN exposure- Parents often delay allergen introduction because their baby is not ready to eat solid foods. Ready, Set, Food! allows parents to start early by adding a powder to their baby’s breast milk or formula. A lot of parents will give their baby peanuts once or twice, but this is not enough - they need to be fed multiple times a week for several months to reduce the risk. Daily packets make that easy.
Organic, no added sugars or preservatives.Ready, Set, Food! is made with only real, organic foods and nothing else - just peanut, egg, and milk.
About the author:
Jessica Hochman, M.D., is a member of the scientific advisory board for Ready, Set, Food! She is a Board Certified Pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She attended UCLA as an undergraduate, majored in Psychobiology, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She completed a Masters in Medical Science at Boston University studying the effectiveness of the low carbohydrate diet. She attended medical school at Boston University, graduating in 2008. She completed her Pediatrics internship and residency training at UCLA in 2011. She enjoys spending her free time with her husband and three young children.
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.