Can You Prevent Allergies in Your Baby?by Katlyn Joy
Parents with a baby who has suffered through itchy eyes, sneezing, wheezing and asthma knows that allergies and asthma are no joke. We know these conditions run in families, but is there any way to prevent them, especially when we know our children are especially at risk for developing them due to one or both parents suffering from allergies and/or asthma?
Things to Avoid
Tobacco. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, smoking during pregnancy is linked to wheezing in a baby's first years. Also, exposure to second-hand smoke can increase the odds of asthma or other respiratory disorders in children. For that reason never smoke or allow others to smoke in your home, car, or around your child. Even smoke clinging to clothing can irritate some children's respiratory systems.
Avoid introducing solid foods before six months of age. Actually sometime between four and six months is a safe bet. Any longer doesn't yield extra benefits, apparently. Introduce new foods one at a time and gradually. If you are offering two new foods at a time, and baby develops a rash, which caused it the creamed corn or the peaches?
Reduce the level of dust mites in baby's environment. That means limiting stuffed animals, washing sheets in hot water frequently, choosing bare floors over carpeting and similar approaches to containing baby's environment.
Things That May Help
Having a less than super-hypoallergenic house. In other words, don't be super-clean. A study presented at the American Thoracic Society 2007 International Conference suggested that exposure to a certain level of common bacteria actually helps kids develop immunity later in life. The study specifically looked at endotoxin, a substance made by certain types of bacteria. While it's no excuse and certainly not a good idea to totally pig-sty your style, it does mean too much white glove testing may have the opposite than desired result.
Expose your children to animals at a younger age. The reasoning is much the same. It appears early exposure develops an immunity. However, if your child has strong allergic reactions, having a pet is still a bad idea.
Breastfeed your baby for six months exclusively. Breast milk is the least allergenic of feeding options in the first months. Breast milk is best, but if not workable then choose a hypoallergenic formula.
Make sure toddlers have a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, such as are found in fish. Recent studies link a diet containing these fish oils with better respiratory health.
With allergy injection treatment, it seems earlier is more effective. If your child develops allergies and asthma before age 5, discuss the options with an immunologist.
Things That Won't Help
Restricting a breastfeeding mother's diet. While many mothers would object, recent studies seem to show it has little benefit. However, if it doesn't make life difficult and there is significant family history of severe food allergies, you may buck the research and play it safe for your own peace of mind.
Indefinitely delaying allergenic foods. Keeping peanuts, other tree nuts, eggs, shellfish and dairy products out of a child's diet for an extended period of time is also not considered a preventative measure against allergies.
Breastfeeding for a year or more will not make a difference in allergy or asthma reduction. If you choose to breastfeed for longer than six months, your motivation should be a different one than to prevent allergies in baby.
What to Do if You Suspect Allergies
If baby gets itchy eyes, a runny nose, a cough, or wheeze or if she shows skin eruptions like hives or a rash after exposure to certain things in the environment or after ingesting certain foods, you may consider allergies a possibility.
See your child's physician and keep a detailed list of how and when these symptoms developed. You may need to see an allergy specialist to make certain of your child's diagnosis.
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