Lessons from An Allergist-Mom on Preventing Food Allergies

By: Katie Marks-Cogan, M.D.

As a board-certified allergist, I’ve seen firsthand how food allergies can be inconvenient, costly and in some cases, life-threatening. Thankfully, findings from recent landmark studies have opened our eyes to new ways of thinking about allergy prevention in children. These studies showed that a baby’s risk of developing common food allergies can be reduced by up to 80% through early and frequent exposure to allergenic foods, starting at around 4–6 months of age.

So when my son David was 5 months old, I prepared a week’s worth of egg, peanut, and yogurt snacks every Sunday night (peanut, egg, and milk comprise 80% of all childhood food allergies). It was time consuming and frustrating, especially because the majority of what I offered my son to eat ended up either on my kitchen floor or on his bib. It was discouraging, but that’s when I was inspired to help parents implement the most critical learnings from recent landmark studies to help significantly reduce their child’s risk of developing a food allergy:

  1. Early Allergen Introduction Applies to All Babies: Childhood food allergies are common, and they’re a growing problem. Currently, 1 out of 13 children in the United States has a food allergy (that’s 2 children in every classroom). It can be hard to predict who will develop a food allergy, and over half of children diagnosed today have no direct family members with food allergies. These are some of the reasons why early allergen introduction is recommended for all infants. However, for infants with severe eczema, a discussion with their pediatrician is required, to determine if they need an allergy screening first.
  2. Starting Early: Starting early is critical for the best chance of reducing your baby’s risk of developing food allergies. Remember, babies aren’t born with food allergies — they develop over time. Scientists now recognize that there is a window of opportunity to train a baby’s immune system to help guide it away from allergies. That’s why, based on recent research, national health organizations are recommending allergen introduction as early as 4 months of age.
  3. Sustaining Exposure: Continuing to expose your baby to allergenic foods for several months is just as important as starting early. Feeding your baby allergenic foods only once or twice has not been shown to reduce the risk of developing a food allergy sometime in the future. In fact, the landmark research studies on early and sustained allergen introduction had regular feeding ranging from 3 months to 4 years.

Parenting is difficult enough, so when we discovered there wasn’t a product on the market that made this easy for parents, we decided to create one. After over 12 months of research and development, we’re proud to offer a gentle, guided system that helps reduce the risk of developing peanut, egg, and milk allergies by up to 80% for families like yours. To learn more about how Ready, Set, Food! makes early allergen introduction easy, visit the website here.

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Katie Marks-Cogan, M.D., FACAAI, is board certified in Allergy/Immunology and Internal Medicine, and treats both pediatric and adult patients. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, she received her M.D. with honors from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She then completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Northwestern and fellowship in Allergy/Immunology at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania and CHOP. After finishing training, she moved to Southern California and currently works in private practice. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, 3-year-old son, and 5-month-old daughter where she enjoys hiking, building LEGO castles with her son, and cooking with her family. She is chief allergist and a member of the scientific advisory board for Ready, Set, Food!

Originally published at blog.mothersquad.com on October 12, 2018.

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