Dr. Matthew answers common questions about childhood food allergy prevention and why he recommends Ready, Set, Food!. He is a member of the scientific advisory board for Ready, Set, Food! Learn more about Ready, Set, Food!’s pediatrician-recommended approach and why 150+ pediatricians and allergists recommend Ready, Set, Food! here.
In your 40 years of experience, what trends have you witnessed with respect to food allergies?
When I finished my residency in pediatrics in 1979, food allergies were rare and there was very low awareness. Now 1 in 13 children suffer from food allergies (in California, it’s 1 in 11) and unfortunately, I’ve seen that same troubling trend in my own practice. In addition, my 1 year old grandson suffers from multiple food allergies, and I’ve seen the toll it takes on the entire family.
How can parents help their children prevent food allergies?
The British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Foundation (AAAAI) are now recommending that parents introduce highly allergenic foods starting as early as 4-6 months of age, with recent studies on childhood food allergy prevention supporting that early introduction can help decrease the risk of allergy to that specific food by 67-80%.
I think it’s important for any parents of infants to understand the following:
- Starting as early as 4-6 months of age, earlier introduction may be more effective at reducing the risk of food allergies. Parents should not delay as studies suggest that delaying introduction may put your child at a greater risk for developing food allergies.
- Studies also suggest sustained exposure is critical and just as important as early introduction, meaning parents must continue allergen exposure multiple times a week for several months.
How do your recommendations change (if at all) if the baby has eczema?
Babies with eczema are at the highest risk, specifically with more than a 3X increased risk of food allergies. In fact, two of the three recent clinical studies were especially focused on infants with eczema and the new NIH guidelines on peanut introduction are specifically for infants with eczema to help reduce the risk of developing peanut allergies.
If a baby has mild to moderate eczema, I still recommend introducing potential allergenic foods at 4 months. However, if they have severe eczema, I always refer them to an allergist for a skin-prick or allergy testing. If they are cleared for allergies, then I continue to recommend early allergen introduction as supported by the new FDA recommendations.
Do you think eating allergenic foods while breastfeeding is enough to prevent allergies?
No. There has not been enough conclusive evidence that eating allergenic foods while breastfeeding has a protective effect, however, eating them also doesn’t increase the risk of developing an allergy. Therefore, according to recent studies, early allergen introduction in infants has been proven to be the most effective at preventing food allergies and is still recommended regardless of a mother’s diet while breastfeeding.
Do you have any advice for parents that are nervous about introducing allergenic foods?
It’s normal for parents to be nervous about giving their babies potentially allergenic foods, but in the three clinical trials with early introduction starting at 4 months with over 2,000 babies there were zero cases of anaphylaxis or hospitalizations. I recommend that parents introduce the smallest amounts possible of each food before gradually increasing dosage, similar to the approach taken by Ready, Set, Food! If they show any signs of sensitivity (e.g. rash, itching), I tell them to stop immediately and consult an allergist for testing.
Why do you recommend Ready, Set, Food! at every 4 month visit?
I tell parents that the most important thing is for them to introduce allergenic foods early and often, but since most families find that challenging to do on their own I recommend Ready, Set, Food! because it is:
- Easy to use – Mixing in with a bottle of breastmilk or formula makes it easy for parents to follow the studies and begin early and sustained allergen introduction starting at 4 months of age
- Evidence-based – With dosage based directly on the landmark clinical studies to help significantly reduce the risk of developing food allergies
- Organic and All Natural – Contains only organic, non-GMO peanut, egg, and milk with no additives or added sugar.
Learn more about how Ready, Set, Food! makes it easy to follow the guidelines to reduce your child’s risk of developing food allergies here.
Interested in receiving a free intro pack ($24 value)? Claim this special offer for Oak Park Pediatrics families and get your head-start towards an allergy-free future here.
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.