New Food Allergy Guidelines
My daughter just turned 4 months old and like most first-time parents, my wife and I are experiencing the anxiety of raising our child in a healthy environment. We also have the added pressure of knowing that her predisposition to allergy is high because her father suffered from eczema, hay fever, and asthma as a child. Although my wife rolls her eyes when I rattle off all of the fascinating immunological changes occurring in our daughter’s tiny little body every day, she knows that I have genuine concern about her potential for developing allergies. I also love that my wife humors me by pretending to care when I talk about T cells and IgE antibodies and allergen tolerance.
At our 4-month visit to the pediatrician we received the very exciting news that we can begin introducing solid foods very soon, so naturally we began to wonder what we should consider with some of the more “high allergy risk foods”. Just this past week, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) announced new guidelines for introduction of foods with high potential for allergic sensitization. The newest data suggests that introduction of these foods within the first year may help prevent the development of food allergies, and delaying the introduction of certain foods may place certain children at higher risk of developing allergies to those foods.
As I watch my daughter explore her world, I can’t help but notice that she tries to put just about every object she can grasp into her mouth. As an immunologist this behavior makes perfect sense to me. The mouth is the gateway for learning, about shapes, size, taste and texture, but it is also a gateway for educating the immune system. The mouth is naturally tolerogenic so for most things we place in our mouths at a young age, the immune system learns to be tolerant. It would stand to reason that introduction of a variety of foods at an early age might help build a proper tolerance to these initially foreign substances.
My wife and I are excited to help my daughter experience new foods. We will certainly consult with our pediatrician and my allergist about the best way to introduce certain foods. As we look forward to teaching our daughter about this amazing new world and how to be a tolerant person, our hope is that we can also help her immune system learn to be tolerant, even if we have to clean up a lot of spilled food and the occasional spit-up.