A recent study shows that feeding babies fish before nine months of age may cut their risk of pre-school wheezing. According to a Swedish study published in the December issue of Acta Paediatrica, eating fish before the age of nine months almost halved the likelihood of suffering recurrent wheezing at 4.5 years of age. The fish most commonly eaten was white fish, followed by salmon and flat fish. However, children faced a higher risk of developing wheezing if they were treated with antibiotics in the first week of life or if their mother took paracetamol (i.e. Tylenol) during pregnancy. Children whose mothers took paracetamol during pregnancy had a 60% increased risk of developing asthma.
Researchers analysed responses from 4,171 randomly selected families, who answered questions when their child was six months, 12 months and 4.5 years of age.
The authors have previously reported that fish is beneficial in preventing both eczema in infancy and allergic rhinitis at pre-school age. Other research suggest a protective effect on the development of asthma.
Fish is abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation in the body. Frank Greer, a pediatrician and former chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) Committee on Nutrition, says you can introduce fish to your baby as early as 6 months. However, if your baby shows signs of allergy such as eczema, check with your baby’s doctor before giving your baby fish.
Also, the type of fish you give your baby is important- Beware of heavy metals found in fish, particularly mercury in the local fish in Hong Kong. Babies are especially sensitive to mercury’s adverse effects on brain and nervous system development. You can read more about heavy metal toxicity here.