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Why Are Food Allergy Rates Increasing?

Jane Lee, M.D. sheds light on recent innovation in the treatment of food allergies.

Why are food allergy rates increasing?

Food allergies are becoming increasingly common, in both children and adults. Approximately one in 12 children and one in 10 adults suffer from food allergies. Some experts have even described food allergies as an epidemic. Food allergies cost the U.S. economy close to $25 billion per year. 

We now believe some of our previous guidelines of delay in introducing allergenic foods to a baby’s diet, caused an increase in food allergies. Gone are the days of waiting until your baby is 1 or 2 years old to try a potentially allergenic food. The most recent, evidence-based data suggests that early introduction of allergenic foods is the way to prevent food allergies from developing. We now believe babies’ immune systems are malleable, and the first few months of life are critical for calibrating an immune system’s response to foods. Ingesting allergenic foods (peanut, tree nut, milk egg, soy, wheat, seafood, and sesame) early is important in developing tolerance to these foods and thereby avoid risk of developing allergy.  

What are new recommendations for introducing peanuts to infants?

The new guidelines recommend that before 11 months of age, all infants should start eating age-appropriate peanut-containing foods. The ideal age is closer to six months.

Guidelines for introducing peanuts depend of baby’s risk of peanut allergy.

  1. Severe eczema, egg allergy or both: This group is at highest risk to develop peanut allergy and benefits the most from early introduction. An allergist should evaluate peanut sensitization (by skin test or blood IgE test) before introduction of peanuts. If negative, peanut should be introduced regularly in baby’s diet. If positive, the allergist will determine next steps.
  2. Mild to moderate eczema: These infants do not need any testing and should be introduced to age-appropriate peanut containing foods as early as 4 to 6 months of age. Some allergists may desire an in-office supervised feeding.
  3. No h/o eczema or food allergy: These infants do not need any testing and can be introduced to age-appropriate peanut-containing foods at home.

Once babies are successfully eating peanut, they should continue to do so on a regular basis. These guidelines address prevention of peanut allergy and do not apply to anyone with known or existing peanut allergy. If they have known peanut allergy, they should not introduce peanut in their diet on their own, as this can be life-threatening. If you have questions about how to introduce peanut or other allergenic foods into baby’s diet, consult with your pediatrician or allergist.

What is the latest in the treatment of food allergies?

Currently, there is no cure for food allergies, but allergists can help food allergies to be less severe and, in some cases, induce immune tolerance to allergens. We do this through treatments, such as oral immunotherapy (OIT).) OIT helps desensitize patients to the very foods they are allergic to by giving them small quantities of the food allergens to ingest every day and gradually building body’s immunity. There are also several other modalities of treatments expected to get FDA approval in the near future. 

However, we still believe that the most effective way to fight against food allergies is to prevent them from developing in the first place. Early introduction of commonly allergenic foods in age-appropriate forms can significantly reduce the risk of food allergies in babies. The future of food allergy is not developing one in the first place!

Dr. Jane Lee has treated allergy sufferers for more than 25 years in Dallas. With an experienced staff and central location near Baylor Hospital Dallas, as well as near the Dallas Galleria, you can be seen quickly and treated immediately to long-term relief from your allergies and asthma. Allergies and asthma cost you time and money. They drain you of energy and keep you from enjoying your life. The best allergy relief comes from clinical treatment for your specific needs. Many people continue to suffer from allergies for long periods of time, despite using over-the counter medications. The reason is that your body has its own specific allergy profile, and it requires consistent monitoring and care.

For patients who are unable to make an in-office visit, Dr. Lee now offers online telehealth options. Named among the best allergists in Dallas for many consecutive years by D Magazine, Dr. Lee is a board-certified specialist in allergy and asthma.

411 N. Washington Avenue

Suite 2400

Dallas, TX 75246

5310 Harvest Hill Lane

Suite 120

Dallas, TX 75230

214-370-5700 office 

214-358-4324 fax


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