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Lifelong Allergies: When Babies Don’t Outgrow Their Food Allergies

Finding out your baby has food allergies makes you wonder if it’ll last forever. You start down a path of fear; fear of your kid missing out on the birthday party, others not understanding dietary restrictions, or a simple accident leading to anaphylaxis. It’s heavy on the mind and heart…

Free to Feed’s here to guide your family on this journey, wherever you are. We’re happy to report most babies do outgrow their food allergies — but it’s important to talk about those who won’t. We’re fighting for the entire food allergy community with resources, education, support, and science!

Today we’re diving into stats about childhood food allergies, when babies don’t outgrow them, and how one new therapy may offer hope for your family. You’ll always have support from us.

What We Know About Infant Food Allergies and the Risk of Lifelong Allergies

If you’re new here — well first, take a deep breath — and then maybe check out some other blogs about food allergies because it’s a little confusing. We bring on the science here at Free To Feed, and try to make it easy for you to understand these tricky issues.

Start with these:

Okay, back to it.

Lifelong allergies fall in the IgE-mediated food allergy category because the immune system’s trying to protect your child.

The immune system thinks it’s protecting your child. (Argh) IgE antibodies respond to food allergens, which makes your baby have a negative reaction. As with all things in food allergies, symptoms and sensitivities depend on each individual child.

Top food allergies children don’t outgrow?

  • Milk

  • Eggs

  • Peanuts

  • Shellfish

This list comes from the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, & Immunology and accounts for children in the United States. We know it’s a hard list to swallow because many common foods include 3 of those ingredients.

The medical field’s still searching for answers to why some kids outgrow food allergies and others don’t. This drives our mission forward to continue our own scientific research and spread education about what we do understand.

While the cause of food allergies remains unclear, we know genetics and environmental factors play a role. Let’s look into statistics now.

What Data Shows For Children With Food Allergies

Let’s start with stats from 14 years ago. (Sorry. It’s not a joke.) On their website, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reviews food allergy data from 2008. (Can we get an update, CDC?) They report these major findings: [1]

  • In 2007, approximately 3% of children under 18 were reported to have food allergies.

  • In the 10 years between 1997-2007, food allergy diagnosis increased by 18% among children.

  • Kids with food allergies are 2-4 times more likely to suffer from asthma or other allergies.

We totally understand the 90s and early 2000s feel like a century ago. But we need to point out the dramatic rise in food allergies and what was happening in the medical field then.

Old recommendations on food allergens for babies was strict avoidance, sometimes till the age of 3. Science, data, and research, particularly from the LEAP study informed us strict avoidance actually increases the likelihood of food allergies! (Read more from us on the importance of early and often introduction here.)

Fast-forward to 2016, when a survey estimated children with food allergies hovers around 18%. That’s about 2 kids in every school classroom — in the United States alone. A dramatic 15% increase from 2007! And we know how often food allergies get dismissed or misdiagnosed. It’s tough but we’re happy to be digging out answers for our families.

What Babies Are At a Higher Risk For Lifelong Allergies?

As a parent, you want to feel prepared for what lies ahead. Knowing risk factors helps:

  • Having other allergies (asthma)

  • African American children

  • Age (most prevalent in childhood)

  • If a parent or sibling has other allergies (food allergies, eczema, hay fever, etc)

Knowing your family history can help put the pieces together. Many parents find out they had hay fever when they were younger. Or that their father was allergic to cow’s milk back in the 50s — like Penelope’s mom, Lauren.

It’s always important to talk to your child’s allergist and pediatrician in regards to treating lifelong food allergies. Being ready for an anaphylactic reaction with an epi-pen is vital for serious allergies. Other treatments have started to gain attention like oral immunotherapy (OIT). Let’s look into why.

Can Oral Immunotherapy Help My Food Allergy Baby?

Oral immunotherapy works specifically for IgE food allergies, so the short answer is? Maybe. It also depends on your definition of “help.”

OIT works to slowly desensitize your child’s immune system to certain food allergens. It’s the difference between needing an epi-pen or breaking out in eczema. It doesn’t necessarily mean your child will outgrow their allergy. It means their immune system doesn’t respond to the food allergen as such a serious threat (avoiding life-threatening reactions).

Free To Feed doesn’t manage OIT treatments because it’s extremely complex and needs to be under the direct supervision of a medical professional. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to educate our community; you can read more on OIT here.

OIT brings hope to parents of children with lifelong allergies. It provides options and an opportunity for the medical field to learn more about this challenging health concern.

If your little has lifelong allergies (confirmed with an IgE blood test or skin prick test,& time), know there’s a community of people living through it too. Hold onto hope.

The first peanut allergy OIT was approved in 2020 and has changed lives for peanut allergy children and their parents! Accidental exposure remains a worry, and having options gives more freedom to families.

The Free To Feed Team Continues To Fight For Our Food Allergy Community

We deeply care about the food allergy community, because it’s ours too. Many of our team are parents just like you. Whether or not your child outgrows their allergies, our mission is to educate and empower parents to confidently feed their babies.

Whether your child has food allergies forever or not, you still aren’t alone. There's a community of parents in the same boat, raising their kids with allergies.

While Dr. Trill works on the test strips to check for food allergens in your breastmilk in real-time, we know this solution will create freedom for breastfeeding parents.

But the real answer to the millions of lifelong allergy questions you have (if you ask us)?

More. Scientific. Research!

For the entire food allergy community. Every step of a food allergy journey comes with hard decisions and doubt. Parents need more answers and concrete evidence for their children. The next generation with food allergies deserve solutions and options too.

We’ll keep pushing forward for the food allergy community — and we’re happy you found us!


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