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A Changing Menu for Children: Food Allergy Prevention

PHOTO: New parents in North Dakota may want to introduce their child to peanuts and other possible food allergens by age one, as research suggests it can help reduce the development of food allergies. Photo credit: miheco/Flickr.
PHOTO: New parents in North Dakota may want to introduce their child to peanuts and other possible food allergens by age one, as research suggests it can help reduce the development of food allergies. Photo credit: miheco/Flickr.
May 26, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. – The food choices of some new parents across North Dakota and the nation are changing, as those meal decisions could impact whether their child develops a food allergy.

For years health professionals suggested that parents withhold allergenic foods until one-year of age, but emerging research suggests that may be counterproductive.

Dana Morris, regional development director for the Midwest with the group Food Allergy Research and Education, cites a study published earlier this year in The New England Journal of Medicine.

"Instead of withholding peanuts, which usually is the common practice, they're suggesting that you actually give it to your infant, especially if there's known allergies,” she points out. “So I think that the directive is starting to come down through the pediatricians, and of course, it's, 'talk to your pediatrician first,' before all those decisions are made."

The study of more than 600 children considered at high risk found that only 3 percent of those children who regularly consumed peanuts had a peanut allergy at age 5, compared to 17 percent of those children who avoided peanuts completely.

Overall, it's estimated that about 8 percent of children have food allergies, and while some will outgrow their sensitivities, Morris notes that there is also a growing trend of adult-onset food allergies.

"So we tell people, anybody can develop a food allergy at anytime,” she stresses. “Personally, myself, I developed them when I was 25 and I didn't have any food allergies."

Morris adds the most common food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish, wheat and other grains with gluten.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND