Parents warned to start allergenic foods early
Parents are being encouraged to feed their babies allergenic foods early, to reduce the likelihood of them developing food allergies later in life.
Queensland Paediatric Immunology and Allergy Service Director Dr Jane Peake said a range of misinformation and limited knowledge had made parents too hesitant to introduce the foods early.
“Some parents wait until their child is 12 months or older before they start introducing common allergenic foods – but by this time, it could be too late,” Dr Peake said.
“Recent studies have shown the earlier allergenic foods are introduced, the less likely a child is to develop food allergies later in life.
“This means parents should be introducing foods such as peanut butter, cooked eggs, dairy, wheat products, fish and seafood as soon as a baby is developmentally ready to eat solid foods.”
Dr Peake said while it was common for parents to fear the unknown, the best way to prepare for the introduction of allergenic foods was to be armed with the right information.
“Before introducing allergenic foods, parents should know the signs and symptoms of mild, moderate and severe allergic reactions and what to do when a reaction occurs,” she said.
“Introducing one food type at a time, and around one or two days apart, can help to identify if the food causes a reaction.
“Allergic reactions usually occur quickly, within minutes although they can take up to two hours, whilst other reactions to foods may be delayed.
“It is important to note than minor redness around the mouth is most often due to irritation, and is not usually due to an allergic reaction.
“If a food causes a minor to moderate allergic reaction, symptoms may include swelling of the lips, eyes or face, hives, welts or vomiting.
“If a child has had a reaction, parents should seek advice from their GP and if appropriate, seek a referral to a paediatric immunologist or allergist.
“If there is a family history of allergies, parents should consult a GP before starting their child on solids.”
Dr Peake said if possible, mothers should continue to breastfeed whilst introducing foods to infants.
“There is some limited evidence that this may reduce the risk of allergies developing, and there are many other health benefits of continued breast feeding,” she said.
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