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No Strong Link Between Allergies and Early Introduction of Solid Foods in Infants

May 01, 2006

Researchers have found no consistent evidence of a relationship between most common allergies and the early introduction of solid foods in infants younger than 4 months, according to a study published in the May issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Researchers have found no consistent evidence of a relationship between most common allergies and the early introduction of solid foods in infants younger than 4 months, according to a study published in the May issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

The study’s principal investigator is Beth A. Tarini, MD, Robert Wood Johnson Clinic Scholars Program and Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington.

The current American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation is to introduce infants to solid foods after four months of age because of the risk of developing allergic disease. Dr. Tarini’s systematic review of the scientific literature found no consistent evidence of a link between most common allergies and the early feeding of solids to infants. The study did find evidence of a slightly increased risk of eczema among children who were introduced to solid foods before four months of age.

“The research is important, because it addresses common parental concerns that giving your baby solid food before four months of age can increase the child’s risk for allergies to foods, pets, pollen, or for developing asthma. We did not find any strong evidence to support many of these concerns. Only for eczema did we find a potential link between the early introduction of solid foods and allergic disease,” said Dr. Beth Tarini, pediatrician at the University of Washington and Children’s Hospital, Seattle. “We hope this study will inform AAP recommendations on the risk of allergy with the introduction of solid foods to infants.”

The researchers identified over 2700 published scientific studies, 13 of which met stringent criteria, to determine whether or not there was evidence of a link between early introduction of solid foods and allergic diseases, such as eczema, asthma, food allergies, allergic rhinitis, pollen allergies, and pet allergies. Often the results of the studies were conflicting and many studies found “no difference” in the rates of allergies in children who had been given solid foods before four months and their risk of developing specific allergies. The exception was in the studies related to eczema, where researchers did find a slightly increased risk of eczema in children who were given solid food before 4 months of age.

Parents and caregivers who have questions about when to start their child on solid foods, should talk with their child’s pediatrician, family practice doctor or health care providers about when to start and what types of foods to introduce first.  

About Seattle Children's Hospital

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Children’s has been delivering superior patient care and advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.seattlechildrens.org.

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