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Food Allergies, Early Eating Patterns Not Related

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Will keeping young children away from certain foods keep them away from allergies later in life?

Three to five percent of the population is allergic to certain foods. Is the timing of exposure to blame? The thought was an immature digestive system could lead to allergies if exposed to foods too early.

"There's been a good look at that recently, and it's not believed that that's the case anymore," says Dr. David Skoner, an allergist at Allegheny General Hospital.

"If their child is allergic to a food, it's not their fault, it's nothing they did," says Dr. Todd Green, an allergist at Children's Hospital.

Allergies are on the rise to foods like peanuts, seafood, eggs and milk. The reasons for this are unknown.

"There's sort of been a trend for delaying introduction of food, thinking that was going to prevent allergies," explains Dr. Green. "Then over the next few years, allergies continued to increase."

There is some thought now that early exposure may actually prevent allergies.

"There's no reason to wait until age three for peanut butter," says Dr. Green.

"What's probably going to happen in future research is we're going to find that maybe earlier attempts at this may be good," says Dr. Skoner. "In other words, the longer we wait to try it, maybe the harder it is for the problem to go away."

Allergies are up in general, whether it's food or pollen. Dr. Skoner says the leading theory is that living a world that's cleaner than ever, we aren't exposed to as many germs and other things in the environment that might stir up the immune system in way to protect against allergies.

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