Feeding peanut products, eggs to baby can reduce allergy risk

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- A new analysis provides more evidence that feeding peanut products or eggs to your baby can help them avoid being allergic to those foods.

Amy Goode's five-year-old son, Nicholas, is allergic to peanuts, eggs and dairy. She'd like for her newborn son, William, to avoid the same fate.

"I think a lot of food allergy parents out there -- we don't like to get our hopes up," Goode said.

Yet there is reason for more hope. There's more evidence that you can lower the chances of allergies to peanuts or eggs by giving babies four months and older foods containing them.

"It's totally reversing the paradigm of what we thought about food allergy. We thought giving allergenic foods early would be bad. But now, it's actually good," said Dr. Chitra Dinakar, an allergist at Children's Mercy Hospital.

A new analysis of previous studies found moderate certainty that introducing peanut products at four to 11-months old greatly reduces the risk of that allergy. There was more than a 70 percent reduction. Government guidelines on how to do it are expected soon. Dr. Dinakar says in the mean time, parents should talk with their pediatricians.

The analysis also found benefit, though not as great, in giving eggs to prevent egg allergy. It doesn't appear to take much egg -- roughly a third of one a week.

"I think a lot of people do that. A lot of my parents actually have reported eating a meal like breakfast with eggs, that they will give a little bit of a nibble to their child," Dr. Dinakar said.

Goode said she'll need to look at the analysis carefully before deciding whether William will get peanut products and eggs early.

"My concern would be if I did this on my own that there might be some reactions and severe consequences," she said.

Dr. Dinakar said that for babies not considered high risk for allergies, parents will simply need to monitor them for several hours after feeding them.

The analysis didn't find good evidence that feeding babies fish makes a difference with that allergy, or that the timing of introducing gluten can affect the chances of getting celiac disease.

The research is in the Journal of the American Medical Association.