Parents are more likely to think their infant is allergic to certain foods than is actually the case, according to a new study from the UK.
Dr. Taraneh Dean of the University of Portsmouth and her colleagues found that 54 percent of a group of one-year-olds were avoiding some foods, because their parents perceived them to have had reactions to items such as cow’s milk, wheat, eggs or additives.
Overall, however, only 2 percent to 6 percent of the infants had clinically confirmed food hypersensitivity, the researchers report in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Dean and her team surveyed a group of 969 parents when their infants were three, six, nine and 12 months of age. At one year, the infants underwent skin prick testing to investigate their sensitivity to a number of allergens.
During the course of the study, infants whose parents reported symptoms of food hypersensitivity underwent open food challenges. If these challenges suggested food hypersensitivity, the children then underwent double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenges, which are considered the “gold standard” in diagnosing food hypersensitivity.
At three months of age, according to parental reports, 14.2 percent of infants had adverse reactions to food, while 7.2 percent did by one year of age. Among all the children, 25.8 percent had been reported at some point by their parents to have food hypersensitivity.
However, open food challenges identified food hypersensitivity in just 14 percent, and double-blind, placebo controlled testing confirmed it in 6 percent.
Skin prick testing found just 2.2 percent of the children had sensitivity to milk, egg, fish, peanut, sesame or wheat.
The findings “emphasize the need for accurate diagnosis to prevent infants being on unnecessarily restricted diets, which may be associated with inadequate nutrition in this important period of growth and development,” the researchers conclude.
SOURCE: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, May 2006.
Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD