Every new parent fears the worst when it comes to food allergies, especially the ones that gain so much media attention for the severe allergic reactions, such as eggs, shellfish and peanut allergies.

In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines that suggested children do not have milk until age 1, eggs until age 2 and peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts and fish until age 3. In 2008, the guidelines were revised to state such a delay was not necessary, but no details were provided to suggest when to introduce foods that commonly produce serious allergic reactions.

New research published in the January article published by the Journal of Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: In Practice shows that introducing highly allergenic foods could be most beneficial if done between four and six months of age, and that doing so may even help prevent food allergies from developing as children grow.

“There’s been more studies that find that if you introduce them early it may actually prevent food allergy,” said David Fleischer, co-author of the article and a pediatric allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver. “We need to get the message out now to pediatricians, primary-care physicians and specialists that these allergenic foods can be introduced early.”

“The body has to be trained in the first year of life,” says Katie Allen, a professor and allergist at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute at Royal Children’s Hospital in Australia. “We think there’s a critical window, probably around 4 to 6 months, when the child first starts to eat solids.”

According to the new recommendations, the introduction of these foods should only take place after solids have been introduced and successfully tolerated. These first foods should include rice cereal, fruits and vegetables.

If you have concerns about introducing foods that commonly cause allergic reactions, or you have a family history of food allergies, call Atlanta ENT to schedule a consultation. Ultimately, peace of mind should play a very important role in such an important parenting decision.

Ramie A. Tritt, MD, President of Atlanta ENT