The rate of food allergies doubled in the last ten years, and researchers are conducting landmark studies to find out the reasons and discover who is predisposed to be at risk. New treatments, including a peanut vaccine, are in development and appear to be on the horizon. In the meantime, parents focus on ways to prevent their children from developing food allergies. The recent studies have prompted the medical community to modify recommendations on how to head off allergies before they show up.
Guidelines on foods have shifted for more than a decade to the confusion of parents. Now, in response to LEAP, LEAP-ON, and EAT studies, researchers are citing evidence that early introduction of peanuts is safe and effective for selected high risk infants. Other studies support early introduction of eggs and cow’s milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics has changed their long-standing recommendations and endorsed early introduction of food as beneficial for children diagnosed with food allergies.
Researchers warn that parents still need to be careful and consult their family doctor before introducing foods into a baby’s diet if the child has eczema or known food allergies or if the family has a history of food allergies. Parents should also keep an eye out for choking hazards.
Preventing food allergies does not rely solely on diversifying a child’s diet. Researchers who are looking for ways to prevent food allergies say eating probiotics and getting enough vitamin D may also play a role. Other ways to improve treatment may be avoiding preservatives, using antibiotic wisely and treating eczema aggressively and early to prevent sensitizing through the skin.
Scientists say safe and efficient treatments that are under investigation offer tremendous hope. Clinical trials have been underway for several years on Epicutaneous Immunotherapy (EPIT) with a patch and Oral Immunotherapy (OIT). Researchers also are looking at Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT).
The Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University beings a first-in-human Phase I clinical trial of a peanut vaccine this fall.
Who is most at risk of developing food allergies? Family histories of asthma and allergies may indicate genetic predisposition. Most food allergies are diagnosed during childhood, but many adults develop allergies. There are indications that immune programming or reprogramming is a factor when patients develop food allergies after childhood. Immune reprogramming is also suspected when parents with no family history of food allergies have children with eczema or food allergies.
Researchers are working to understand the idea that outside factors like the environment might actually modify our genes and trigger food allergies.
Before the arrival of new treatments, parents are always looking for allergen-free recipes their kids will love. Here are two from Goop: Allergen Kid Faves.