Even during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the benefits of allergy prevention outweigh the very low risk of a severe reaction. Here’s why.
The best way to prevent food allergies is to give babies the most common allergenic foods early in life, according to research Peanut and egg showed. Even during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the benefits of allergy prevention outweigh the very low risk of a severe reaction.
As clinicians and researchers in the field of allergy and infant nutrition, we fear that COVID-19 could cause parents to delay the introduction of allergens into their babies. Parents may not feel comfortable taking their baby to an emergency room because they may be exposed to COVID-19. Therefore, they do not want to risk a severe allergic reaction that requires hospitalization.
The latest Canadian recommendations continue to use during the COVID-19 pandemic. The recommendations encourage parents to take allergic foods to babies as soon as they eat solid foods for about six months, but not before the fourth month of life. This also applies to lower-risk infants, but is particularly important for babies who are at higher risk of allergy due to eczema, other food allergies, or an immediate family history of an allergic condition.
Should I delay the introduction of allergens?
Many parents may be wondering whether they should delay the introduction of allergens into their baby due to COVID-19. The answer is no. Despite the pandemic and some families trying to avoid the risk of visiting the emergency room, allergens are being introduced in babies without delay is recommended. The risk of one severe allergic reaction when you eat a new meal for the first time is extremely low– well below two percent.
Delaying the introduction could cause children to do so higher allergy risk. If it is not introduced in infancy, the risk of an allergic reaction increases as a child ages. Therefore, it is better to introduce early and not to delay. There is evidence that peanuts are introduced into infants at higher risk reduces the risk of peanut allergy by up to 80 percent.
What if my baby has an anaphylactic reaction?
It is very unlikely that babies will react so strongly to a new food that they need one Emergency trip to the hospital. To put it in perspective, food allergies have an impact two to ten percent Even most older children are not allergic to food. The likelihood of a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis, is less than two percent, even in babies at higher risk.
In the unlikely event that infants have a severe reaction and need to go to the emergency room, the The risk of acquiring COVID-19 is also extremely low when appropriate measures for infection control be respected. The risk of an infant dying of COVID-19 in the unlikely event that it is acquired when visiting the emergency room is even less because children have milder symptoms of the disease.
How should I introduce allergens?
In Canada, cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, sesame, fish and shellfish, soy and wheat are the most common allergens. Pureed foods, smooth nut butter diluted with breast milk or milk food, or ground nuts mixed in purees are a great way for parents to safely introduce allergens to babies in a non-suffocating form.
It is important that the allergen is introduced orally, which means that the child eats the food. We recommend not rubbing it on skin or lips to detect an allergic reaction as this can cause irritation that can be misunderstood as an allergy.
Parents can import these foods individually, always age-appropriate for their baby and without delays between the introduction of new foods. Allergic reactions usually occur very quickly, so parents can measure the response within a few hours after a meal.
Allergic reactions in infants usually affect the skin (Hives, itching, rash), Gastrointestinal tract (Vomit, Diarrhea) or airways (wheezing). Parents should monitor the signs closely and photograph skin reactions if they can seek advice from their family doctor. If there is a reaction, eating should be avoided until the parents have consulted their health care team and determined the next best steps.
Once an allergen has been safely introduced, it is very important to offer and serve it to the baby a few times a week to maintain tolerance. The goal of including these allergens in regular family nutrition is a practical way for parents to offer them to the baby frequently.
In our professional opinion, the benefits of preventing food allergy from developing (which can affect the quality of life of the whole family for many years) are far greater than the very low risk of developing a life-threatening allergic reaction and possibly exposing babies to COVID-19.
Maude Perreault is a registered nutritionist and research associate at McMaster University. Edmond S. Chan is a pediatric allergist, senior and clinical associate professor at the Department of Allergy and Immunology at the Department of Pediatrics at the Faculty of Medicine and researcher at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute at the University of British Columbia. Elissa M. Abrams is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Department of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the University of Manitoba and Johns Hopkins University.
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