By, Justine Lorelle LoMonaco.
Food allergens are a source of stress for most parents beginning to introduce their babies to solids. They may wonder when, how, or if they should introduce them, especially if they’re considered one of the dreaded “big 8 allergens”.
No, we’re not talking about your co-workers March Madness draft. The big eight allergens are the eight foods identified as the most common allergens. They are:
– Fish (i.e. bass, flounder, cod)
– Shellfish (i.e. crab, lobster, shrimp)
– Tree nuts (i.e. almonds, walnuts, pecans)
So…should you be scared of the big eight?
Not necessarily. Research released in 2008 actually discovered that early introduction to allergens may be the number one way to prevent a food allergy. Prior to this study, which focused on the #1 food allergen, peanuts, it was recommended that parents wait until a child was three years or older to introduce peanuts. Now it has been shown that introducing peanuts from 4-6 months lessens the chance of a child developing a peanut allergy by about 97 percent, even in high risk populations. Since then, other worldwide studies have shown that early introduction of the other big eight allergens (at age four to six months) has a significant effect on lessening the chance of a food allergy developing.
The new recommendation from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is to start by serving your child a bite at a time of a potential allergen, and keep up the exposure if no reaction develops. Frequent and continuous consumption is key to fending off an allergy. Plus, it’s a great way to broaden your tiny human’s palate from an early age.
Still a little nervous?
Talk to your pediatrician. If you have a family history of food allergens, your child’s doctor may recommend introducing one potential allergen at a time, or skipping all together. With your pediatrician’s okay, though, it’s most likely safe to start serving the big eight after you’ve begun introducing solid foods. The one exception is cow’s milk, which shouldn’t be introduced until your baby is one year old. (Sorry, little one. The milkshakes will have to wait.)