Not to be

Warwickshire Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE -

AVING a child with a food al­lergy is a daily strug­gle that par­ents hope to avoid. But with a dou­bling in the preva­lence of se­vere food al­ler­gies over the past decade, it’s clear avoid­ance just isn’t work­ing.

In the past, par­ents have been ad­vised that, to stop young chil­dren de­vel­op­ing food al­ler­gies, they should pre­vent them eat­ing foods that com­monly cause the al­lergy such as dairy prod­ucts, eggs, nuts and fish.

But the think­ing about al­lergy pre­ven­tion is chang­ing, and some em­i­nent al­ler­gists now be­lieve the key to chil­dren avoid­ing al­ler­gies is for them to reg­u­larly eat foods con­tain­ing al­ler­gens from in­fancy. IT’S an ap­proach that re­search has proved works. The Learn­ing Early About Peanut al­lergy (LEAP) study com­pared chil­dren aged un­der one who con­sumed peanuts with those who avoided them com­pletely, and it showed peanut con­sump­tion re­duced preva­lence of peanut al­lergy by 80%.

Yet many par­ents are fright­ened to do it, par­tic­u­larly if they have food al­ler­gies them­selves and be­lieve their chil­dren are also at risk of de­vel­op­ing them.

But one mum Robin Nixon Pompa, whose own young child de­vel­oped a life-threat­en­ing al­lergy to eggs and nuts, has writ­ten a book, Al­lergy-Free Kids, ex­plain­ing the ap­proach and the sci­ence be­hind it.

She believes it halted and may even have helped ‘cure’ her in­fant daugh­ter’s food al­ler­gies, as well as stop­ping such al­ler­gies de­vel­op­ing in her two younger chil­dren.

“The main prob­lem is that we were given the wrong ad­vice on how to pre­vent al­ler­gies,” she says. “In­stead of avoid­ing it, we need to give our ba­bies and chil­dren al­ler­genic food early, care­fully and of­ten.” WHILE this can be a daunt­ing prospect, par­tic­u­larly for allergic par­ents whose child is at high-risk of al­ler­gies, Robin re­as­sures: “Allergic re­ac­tions are very scary, but for­tu­nately re­searchers have found that in the early months, chil­dren are very un­likely to have a life-threat­en­ing re­ac­tion. There may be a few hives or some swelling, but you’re not go­ing to need to rush them to hos­pi­tal. “The logic used to be, let’s wait for the im­mune sys­tem to be ma­ture enough, or for the child to be old enough to ex­press dis­com­fort, be­fore in­tro­duc­ing po­ten­tially trou­ble­mak­ing al­ler­gens. “But now stud­ies sug­gest that for most ba­bies, al­ler­gens are safe. And avoid­ing them may make food al­ler­gies more likely.” THE idea be­hind the al­ler­gen con­sump­tion ap­proach is that by in­tro­duc­ing tiny amounts of an al­ler­gen into a child’s diet and in­creas­ing the amount grad­u­ally, the child’s im­mune sys­tem is ed­u­cated to recog­nise al­ler­gens that it might wrongly have treated as a poi­son, and learn not to re­act to them. ROBIN stresses, how­ever, that

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