MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
David Stukus, MD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Associate Director, Pediatric Allergy & Immunology Fellowship Program
Director of Quality Improvement, Division of Allergy and Immunology
Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine
Columbus Ohio 43205
Dr. David Stukus discusses the emerging science behind food allergy prevention.
MedicalResearch.com: How many US children are affected by food allergies?
Response: Food allergies affect roughly 5-8% of all U.S. children, which is approximately 6 million children. This translates to about 1 in every 13 children, or an average of two children in every classroom.
MedicalResearch.com: Are food allergies becoming more common?
Response: Yes, we know that the prevalence of food allergies have doubled over the past two decades. Unfortunately, there is no single or definitive answer as to why this increase has occurred.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the most common allergens?
Response: The most common food allergens affecting children are milk, egg, peanut, wheat, soy, tree nuts, and also seafood.
MedicalResearch.com: Do children tend to ‘outgrow’ allergies?
Response: Children with milk, egg, wheat, or soy allergies are expected to develop tolerance as they get older, often by school age. This is not universal, and a minority do remain allergic with age. Unfortunately, only about 20% of children with peanut, tree nut, or seafood allergies develop tolerance later in life
MedicalResearch.com: What can parents do to limit the development of food allergies in their children?
Response: We used to recommend holding off on feeding allergenic foods such as milk, egg, peanut to babies until they were older. We now have evidence that these recommendations were wrong and that early introduction is not only very safe, but can actively reduce their risk for developing food allergy. One of the most important things parents can do is feed their infants age appropriate forms of allergenic foods early, once they are tolerating other solid foods around 4-6 months of age. It’s important to introduce these foods early, but even more important to keep allergenic foods in their diet on a regular basis and to diversify their diet as much as possible. Feeding infants should be a fun, messy experience for parents and we need to help them not medicalize or fear this process.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: It’s important for parents and pediatricians alike to remain aware of how much science has changed our approach to food allergy prevention over the past few years. This can be confusing and even contradictory to prior advice, which is an important reason to understand when the evidence demonstrates. It is a common concern that infants are at greater risk to have a severe allergic reaction when they are first exposed to an allergenic food but this is not the case at all. We all need to help provide evidence based reassuring messages to parents everywhere about feeding their infants.
Before Brands and Aimmune have given financial support for me to give non promotional educational seminars. I served as a member of the NIAID expert panel that authored the 2017 Addendum guidelines for early introduction of peanut to prevent peanut allergy. I am Chair of the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting Program Committee and Social Media Medical Editor for the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.
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