Health Alert: There's a new approach to food allergy testing for kids

Posted at 6:07 PM, Sep 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-24 20:16:24-04

The rate of primary school-aged children in the U.S. with food allergies has skyrocketed over the last decade.

It's now estimated one in every 50 children have some sort of food-related allergy.

Parents should know that allergists have a new approach to testing the waters with little ones.

Severe reactions to simple foods like peanuts and eggs are on the rise. Take Nolen Larson, 8, of Boise, for example. He looks like a happy, healthy kid. While he is, Nolen has to avoid peanuts all together.

"If I touch it, I'll get a rash. If I eat it, I have to go to the doctor or I could die," he said.

While there are a few theories on the cause for the spike, a new recommendation has emerged.

"The reactions, often times, are very severe," said Dr. Charles "Chip" Webb with The Allergy Group in Boise. "So, if we can do anything to prevent a food allergy this is really exciting for us."

At the turn of the century, experts recommended delaying the introduction of peanut butter and eggs for infants and toddlers.

Now, armed with new research that suggests otherwise, parents are encouraged to introduce those foods as young as 4-months-old.

"I feel it's very important we consider early introduction in our children for these allergenic foods," Webb said. "It's the complete opposite of what we told families in 2000."

Parents who should be more cautious with the early introduction method are those with children who have eczema or who already have a food allergy. Dr. Webb advises that a blood test be taken to make that determination in such instances.

Nolen's mother is thankful to only have to worry about one food allergy that she says is manageable. They first found out about Nolen's condition when he was 18-months-old.

"So, we check labels all the time and it just is part of what you do. If there is not a label and someone made it... if they can't guarantee that it doesn't contain any peanuts then he just doesn't eat it," explained Paula Larson, Nolen's mother. "He finds something else to eat."

Dr. Webb recommends introducing one food at a time with babies. Starting off, he says it's best to give just a small amount and keep watch for 30 minutes. Babies having a bad reaction typically get red in the face, cough and cry.