Being nut-free has become the cultural norm in schools and at kids’ parties across the western world. Shielding babies and toddlers from exposure to peanuts and other common allergens such as egg, has also become common practice. But by curbing the exposure of our young ones to these foods, we may unintentionally be causing an increase in allergic reactions.
According to recommendations outlined in the latest Medical Journal of Australia published this week, experts from around the world are stating that the introduction of egg and peanuts and ongoing exposure within the first year of a child’s life may actually prevent the development of allergies.
Guidelines developed by the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy recommend that parents should start feeding solid foods to babies at around six months of age, preferably while they continue to breastfeed, an article in Adelaide Now reported (paywall).
The society suggests egg and peanuts should be introduced by 12 months but not before four months, and once the foods are introduced, the guidelines recommend they should be continued twice weekly in the baby’s diet so that tolerance is not lost.
Lead author Preeti Joshi, based at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, in Sydney, said food allergy rates in Australia were among the highest in the world, and that a cultural fear seems to have arisen, especially over peanuts.
He explained that from studies conducted around the world, especially in Israel, that there have been no reports of any fatalities to peanuts by any babies worldwide.
Demonstrating the advice being meted out by medical experts on exposure to peanuts and eggs and other food items, is Israel, which has one of the lowest rates of allergies in general, but one form of allergy is particularly rare by Western standards: peanuts.
And by current common wisdom, Israel is doing all the wrong things. Instead of shielding their infants from peanuts, they instead feed them the ubiquitous peanut snack Bamba from a few months old.
Perhaps greater exposure rather than shielding does help to minimise the rates of allergy.
Check out this clip from YouTube from Science Insider on the benefits of peanut exposure.