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Food allergies less severe in infants: study

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(HealthDay News) -- A severe allergic reaction to food is much less serious in infants than in toddlers and older children, a new study concludes.

"We found that infants, unlike older children, have a low-severity food-induced anaphylaxis, which should come as reassuring news to parents who are about to introduce their baby to potentially allergenic foods like peanuts," said study author Dr. Waheeda Samady, from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

Anaphylaxis is a whole-body allergic reaction that can include heart or respiratory problems. In older children, food-triggered anaphylaxis can be life-threatening, but in infants it mostly involves hives and vomiting, this study found.

The researchers analyzed data from 47 infants, 43 toddlers, 96 young children and 171 school-aged children treated for food-induced anaphylaxis at a hospital emergency department over two years.

Gastrointestinal symptoms were much more common in infants (89 percent) than in toddlers (63 percent), young children (60 percent), or school-aged children (58 percent). Vomiting was especially common among infants (83 percent), the findings showed.

Rates of skin symptoms were 94 percent in infants, 91 percent in toddlers, and 62 percent in school-aged children. Hives were the most common skin symptom, affecting 70 percent of infants.

Cough and other respiratory symptoms were more common in older age groups, affecting 17 percent of infants, 44 percent of young children, and 54 percent of school-aged children. Only one infant in the study had wheezing, and only one infant had low blood pressure.

No infant in the study died from anaphylaxis, the researchers said.

"Since early introduction of peanuts is now encouraged by national guidelines, it is understandable that parents might be fearful of triggering a serious reaction," Samady, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University, said in a hospital news release.

According to study senior author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, of Lurie Children's Hospital, "If a baby develops only a mild rash or gastrointestinal symptoms after trying a new food, we advise parents to discuss this reaction with the child's physician."

But, "if there are multiple symptoms, make sure to call 911 and get emergency help immediately," advised Gupta, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern.

The report was published online recently in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on anaphylaxis.

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