Babies who are at high-risk of developing a food allergy can be exposed to potential food allergens as early as 6 months of age, according to a joint statement by the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) and Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI).
"Delaying dietary exposure to potential allergens like peanuts, fish or eggs will not reduce your child's risk of developing a food allergy," said Dr. Edmond Chan, paediatric allergist and co-author of the statement. "However, once a new food is introduced, it is important to continue to offer it regularly to maintain your child's tolerance."
Babies are considered at high risk of developing a food allergy if they have a parent or sibling with an allergic condition, such as atopic dermatitis, a food allergy, asthma or allergic rhinitis. The statement says that while these foods can be introduced to high-risk babies, the decision about when should be individualized and based on the parents' comfort level. The CPS advises parents who are unsure to talk to their physician.
"We also don't recommend avoiding milk, egg, peanut or other foods while pregnant or breastfeeding," said Dr. Carl Cummings, co-author of the statement and chair of the CPS Community Paediatrics Committee. "There is no evidence to support the theory that avoiding certain foods during this time will prevent allergies in children."
Food allergies affect approximately 7 per cent of Canadians. Some research suggests food allergy in babies is increasing, affecting over 10 per cent of one-year-olds.
The statement is endorsed by Dietitians of Canada.