New American guidelines by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases say parents should give babies food with peanuts early to reduce their risk of developing allergies later. This is the opposite of what was recommended 17 years ago, when the American Academy of Pediatrics advised that children should not be fed peanuts before age three.
Doctors in Singapore say peanut allergies are generally less common here and there are no guidelines in the country similar to those just introduced in the United States.
They advise parents not to avoid foods that commonly trigger allergies when they introduce their babies to solid foods.
Dr Soh Jian Yi, a consultant at the National University Hospital‘s paediatric allergy, immunology and rheumatology division, said studies have shown that it is not advisable to deliberately delay introducing foods that commonly cause allergies.
“This is because deliberate delay does not prevent food allergy, and the concern is that it may increase the risk of developing allergy to that delayed food – especially in high-risk babies,” he said.
Infants who already have severe eczema or other allergies are considered to be high-risk.
Paediatrician Ang Poon Liat of Thomson Paediatric Centre said exposing children to foods such as egg, peanuts and fish early can “programme” their immune systems to tolerate such foods.
Dr Low Kah Tzay, a paediatrician at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said parents should closely monitor each food that they introduce to their children.
Allergy symptoms include rashes, swollen eyes, vomiting, diarrhoea and difficulty in breathing.
However, young children should not be given whole nuts in case they choke, said Associate Professor Anne Goh, who heads the allergy service at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital‘s paediatrics department. “Instead, (they) should be given nuts in the form of a paste, such as peanut butter or peanut butter biscuits.”
A version of this story first appeared in The Straits Times.