Food allergy rates are on the rise. An estimated 1 in 13 babies will develop a food allergy to one or more of peanuts, egg, tree nuts, milk, soy, fish or shellfish. On one hand, allergies have become so common that labeling is better, and options are available to almost all children. (Hello allergen free bakeries!) But as a parent, having a child with food allergies means that the world is much less safe. Here are steps you can take to help reduce the chance of food allergies.
Know your history
One of the biggest risk factors for food allergies is family history. For example, a baby has a 7x increased risk of developing a peanut allergy if a parent or sibling has a peanut allergy. If food allergies are in your family, start the discussion with your pediatrician early. They will help you look for early signs, guide you in introducing foods, and may even write a prescription for medications to keep at home even before something shows up.
Watch for eczema and treat flares
Eczema is a chronic skin condition of dry, red, itchy patches of skin. Eczema usually first shows up when baby is between 3 and 6 months old. It mainly appears on cheeks, inside elbows, and behind knees. Babies with eczema have a compromised skin barrier that may be a cause of food allergies. When the skin barrier is compromised, food dust can break through, triggering the immune system to become sensitized. If you see signs of eczema on your baby, speak to your pediatrician. They can recommend emollients that will help restore the skin barrier, and also help you understand if an allergy is causing the eczema.
Feed potential allergens early and often
There is a growing body of literature that shows food allergies may be prevented by introducing those same foods early and often. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests giving allergens “freely” starting a 4 months, the same time baby is starting solid foods. The LEAP study showed a greater than 80% reduction in peanut allergies using this strategy in high risk infants, and the EAT study has shown protective effects of including eggs, dairy, and other foods early.
The key is to make sure that the foods are prepared (ie soft, mashed, pureed) correctly so that baby can eat them safely. Peanut butter, for example, is incredibly sticky and difficult for early eaters to ingest. The recommendations for amounts and frequency can also be confusing.
At Lil Mixins, we are helping parents take the guesswork out of allergen introduction by creating powders that are simple, 100% organic, and blend into baby’s food, milk, or formula. Making introduction developmentally appropriate for an early eater, and painless for caregivers to include in your regular feedings.
Food allergies are scary but there are steps you can take to reduce your child’s risk. Knowing your risk, and when to speak to a doctor, can help alleviate fears and make feeding baby fun again.
About Lil Mixins
Lil Mixins is working with pediatricians and food scientists to develop a line of products that help parents follow the new pediatric guidance on introducing potential allergens. Our powders are made from 100% whole foods and blend easily into pureed foods, breastmilk, or formula.