Surprising facts about food allergies and babies

What about holding off on some foods until a child is older, which the AAP recommends for high-risk children? In fact, says Anne Munoz-Furlong, a researcher and the founder of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, there is debate about whether delaying exposure to foods may do more harm than good. (This "hygiene hypothesis" suggests that overly sterile environments promote allergies.) Many Chinese and Israelis, for example, begin eating peanut extracts in infancy, and allergy rates seem lower there. And the 2006 evidence review agrees there is "little evidence" to delay foods, and that European allergy societies make no such recommendation.

Next, while breast-feeding is great for many reasons, it may not reduce allergies in healthy children. In 2004, an international consortium of allergists reviewed 92 prior studies and concluded breast-feeding and delaying solid food had no impact on allergies in infants with no family history of food allergy. Among children who are not breast-fed, also, there is no consistent benefit from using expensive "hydrolyzed" formulas to reduce allergies.

Bottom line: In general, very little that a parent can do affects a child's chance of food allergies.

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