During the Allergy Weaning Week, Professor Helen Brough presented an insightful discussion on the rising prevalence of food allergies in children, emphasizing the interplay between eczema and these allergies. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the essential points she covered:
Eczema, Skin Care and Allergies:
Understanding the link between food allergies and eczema, Professor Brough explains how genetic mutations like Filaggrin and environmental factors can disrupt skin barriers, leading to eczema and potential allergies. Essential to prevention is proper skincare, particularly for children prone to eczema, including avoiding bubble baths and high pH creams that disrupt skin’s natural acidity.
Leap and Eat Studies – Groundbreaking Research:
Professor Brough explores two transformative studies. The Leap study showed that the introduction of peanuts to high-risk children at an early age significantly reduced the development of peanut allergies. The Eat study demonstrated that introducing six allergenic foods under six months can be challenging, yet significantly reduced peanut and egg allergies, especially when introduced early.
Evolution of Food Introduction Guidelines:
Tracing the evolution of food introduction guidelines, Professor Brough discusses the shift from late introduction of allergenic foods to current recommendations that encourage introducing allergenic foods from around six months, and no later than 12 months.
Dealing with Allergic Reactions and the Importance of Dietary Diversity:
Professor Brough provides essential guidance on identifying immediate and delayed allergic reactions, advising to discontinue the suspected food immediately and seek medical attention if reactions are severe. She also emphasizes the importance of a diverse diet during infancy, as it helps reduce the risk of food allergies and asthma.
Starting Solids – A Practical Guide:
Professor Brough shares practical advice for parents starting to introduce solids, including non-allergenic foods before introducing allergenic ones one at a time. She suggests gradually increasing portions of a new allergen while ensuring it’s continued in the child’s diet twice a week to maintain tolerance.
Advice for Parents of Eczema-Prone Children:
For children prone to eczema, Professor Brough advises parents to apply ointment before feeding solids and introduce allergenic foods from as early as 17 weeks. She also highlights the importance of maintaining skin health and the necessity of early introduction of various foods to prevent allergies.
Dealing with Cow’s Milk Allergy:
Professor Brough offers guidance for introducing solids to a child with cow’s milk allergy, underscoring the importance of considering essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and iodine. She encourages parents to cautiously trial cow’s milk, particularly yogurt, and in case of eczema, to consider allergy testing or a slow introduction of cow’s milk.
The Utility of Skin Prick Tests:
The discussion concludes with an overview of skin prick tests, emphasizing their value in diagnosing food allergies at any age, providing a potentially critical tool for parents navigating food allergies.