Bringing translational research into practice
Food Allergy Prevention
Dr Tom Marrs was involved in running the UK’s largest food allergy prevention study from within King’s College London, which showed that peanut and egg allergy can be prevented through dietary introduction where babies are able to eat these regularly.
Tailoring dietary food allergen introduction for your young child
Food Allergy Prevention in Practice
Infants and young children can be protected from a specific food allergy if they are not already allergic to the food and if this food is reasonable to include in the diet on a regular basis.
Testing may be undertaken within a face-to-face visit by skin testing or by blood testing. Skin prick testing has the advantage of giving results within one clinic visit and allows prompt intervention.
Effective prevention requires sufficient allergen to be eaten on a regular basis. For infants without sensitisation, foods may be introduced at home, however those with limited sensitisation may benefit from supervised introduction in clinic.
The key to successful prevention is the continuation of weekly consumption, monitoring and further support for considering introduction of other important dietary allergens.
Practical planning makes all the difference...
Dietary introduction works most effectively from 4-8 months of age alongside breastfeeding where possible. This allows babies plenty of time to get used to the tastes as part of their regular diet.
Baby led weaning is great for developmental skills and generating interest in foods. It can also delay eating effective quantities of some allergens, and we wish to prevent smearing certain allergens on the skin. A spoon-for-allergen, and finger-food for development approach is usually best of both worlds.
Studies have identified effective quantities for peanut and egg, and similar protein doses are likely relevant for other major food allergens. The portion size and regularity may be tailored to the child’s age, health and dietary preferences. Force feeding is never a good idea!
It is important to broaden and expand food allergen options for children as they grow at any age. The capacity for protecting children from developing a food allergy changes through childhood, however the benefit does not disappear after the first birthday. Individual discussions for each child are recommended to ensure that realistic aims are agreed for each child.
Children avoid food for many reasons, including taste, texture, stressful mealtimes or already being full! Some children start to refuse when they develop early symptoms. Thorough assessment and review is important to navigate the best option for your child, and may involve testing. Please get in touch if you have concerns about your child’s dietary breadth and enjoyment of allergens.
Yes! It is important to consider the whole family when planning a dietary introduction plan. Most allergens can be offered to a younger child in a safe way, even if other family members are allergic to the food. Discussion about these practicalities depends upon the family members, their history and allergies.