Delay in introducing foods no protection against developing allergy

We thank Mr Low De Wei for the informative article profiling peanut allergy as an increasingly common condition (Why the worry about nuts served in aircraft; May 5).

We note with interest the sentence: "Early and heavy exposure of children to peanuts can also lead to a misidentification by the immune system that it is dangerous."

Indeed, it is a common concern of parents that introducing peanut early may increase the risk of peanut allergy.

There is robust scientific evidence that delaying introduction of foods does not protect against food allergy; several studies over the years have consistently demonstrated that delaying introduction of so-called "allergenic foods" such as peanut may in fact increase the risk of developing food allergy.

For example, a recent landmark study in Britain demonstrated that in a high-risk group of British infants, early introduction of peanut from the age of four months decreased the risk of developing subsequent peanut allergy.

Further research is necessary to determine if this finding is applicable to other populations, particularly in Singapore.

Our own study on a large birth cohort in Singapore found low rates of peanut allergy (0.1 to 0.3 per cent) despite comparatively late introduction of peanut (88.7 per cent introduced peanut after 10 months).

For Singaporean infants, it may be best to continue common-sense-based weaning practices with the above evidence in mind.

Introduction of weaning foods should still take into account the baby's ability to chew, swallow and accept food of varying textures and sizes. Lydia Wong (Dr)

Associate Consultant,

Division of Paediatric Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology

National University Hospital

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2018, with the headline 'Delay in introducing foods no protection against developing allergy'. Print Edition | Subscribe