- In This Feature
- Fact or Fiction
- Myth #1: Baby's First Food Must be Rice Cereal
- Myth #2: Babies are at High Risk for Food Allergies
- Myth #3: If a Baby Refuses Food He Doesn't Like It
- Myth #4: Babies Know Exactly What They Need to Eat
- Myth #5: Commercial Baby Food is Preferable to Table Food
- Myth #6: Parents Should Only Offer a Small Variety of Bland Foods
- Myth #7: If I Feed My Baby Well, It Doesn't Matter What I Eat
Myth #2: Babies are at High Risk for Food Allergies
Many new parents are concerned about allergic reactions. Everywhere you turn, there are warnings about potential food allergies—and for good reason. Food allergies can cause reactions varying in severity from mild to serious, including anaphylactic shock.
However, the prevalence of allergy warnings has created the impression that large percentages of children have food allergies, and that danger lurks behind every food in the grocery store. The truth is much more reassuring.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) reports that only eight percent of children under age six have adverse reactions to ingested foods, and that only two to five percent have confirmed food allergies.
People often confuse reactions to food with food allergies. For example, if a child has a stomach bug, he may be lactose intolerant for a week. That is a negative reaction, but not an allergy. “There is a host of adverse reactions to foods, and allergies are a subset of those,” says Dr. Kleinman.
When to introduce high allergy foods is still an issue of debate in the medical community. For high-risk families (those with prevalent food allergies), everyone is on the same page: it’s best to wait until your child is three years old to introduce the following top five allergens:
- Peanuts/peanut butter
- Egg whites
- Shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp, scallops, and oysters)
- Tree nuts (including walnuts and cashews)
There is a discrepancy when it comes to low-risk families, shares Dr. Brown. For example, the AAP guideline for low-risk families is that it’s acceptable to start peanuts, eggs, fish, and tree nuts after age one, but many allergists disagree with that guideline. They question why it’s necessary to introduce peanuts, the only food allergy that is becoming much more common, at one year of age. Because peanut allergies are so dangerous, most allergists warn against introducing them until age three, whether the child is in a high-risk family or not.