Photograph by Daniella Segura (peanuts) and Liz West (eggs)/Flickr
Peanuts and eggs are strong allergens or triggers for allergies, but a recent study by the Journal of American Medical Association indicates that introducing infants to peanuts and eggs may lower risk to an allergy towards both foods. Eggs and peanuts are the most common causes for allergies among infants besides food such as soy, wheat, tree nuts, cow’s milk, sesame, wheat and seafood, particularly fish. “The theory that seems to be followed here is hyposensitisation, where known allergens are introduced into the system in very small doses,” says Dr Deepak Ugra, consultant paediatrician with Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai, “But the issue here is that who is going to calibrate it in the case of kids?”
According to the guidelines followed for infant food in India, paediatricians recommend only breast milk for the first six months and a whole fruit after six months. Says Dr Gail Chaudhari, full-time paediatrician associated with Healthspring chain of hospitals in Mumbai, “After the fruit, we advise mothers to add a cereal, pulse and fibre into the infant’s diet. We recommend only egg yolk during the ninth month and any animal protein including egg white and meat only after a year since the child’s intestinal tract is better equipped to digest it after a year.” So peanuts and eggs are not introduced even during the weaning period, leave alone at four months and six months as seen in the Journal of American Medial Association’s study.
The American study suggested that there was moderate certainty that early introduction to peanuts and eggs might cut down risk of allergies later. The study also went onto indicate that children who are allergic to certain foods should continue to avoid them. “Allergies are also linked to different environments and population, so while the West may see higher incidence of gluten allergies, it is not the case in India. Also we have no study or data in India to suggest why people develop certain kinds of allergies,” adds Dr Ugra.