How to Prevent Children from Developing Allergies

It’s alarming how food allergies in children have increased in occurrence over time. At present, more than five percent of children have been diagnosed to be food allergic. The most common culprits come from different food groups and ingredients such as dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.

Over the years, researchers have worked hard to find answers to successfully prevent the development of allergies in children. The most recent conclusions completely vary from what pediatricians were recommending just a decade ago.

When Allergies Begin

Most sensitivities, food-based or otherwise, develop during infancy. Many cases are inherited from their parents, but the prevailing belief back then was that if babies were kept away from common allergens, their immune system would have a chance to mature, helping them avoid the development of allergies.

Because of this, doctors told parents to delay the introduction of solids, especially high allergenic foods such as eggs. These days, the opposite has become the standard. If you want to give your seven-month-old scrambled eggs, you’re likely to get the go-ahead.

What the Current Standards Are

These new feeding guidelines may contradict the beliefs that you grew up with or that you followed with your older children, but the following are based on findings from more recent and more conclusive studies:

  • Basic foods like rice, fruits, vegetables, and cereal may be introduced at six months of age.
  • According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the best way to prevent babies from developing food allergies is to expose them to more foods early.

This is obviously the complete opposite of the older guidelines. Where before children were discouraged from consuming milk before they turned one year old, eggs before they turned two, and other high allergen foods before they turned three, this is no longer the case.

Since gradual, early exposure to different foods is recommended for food allergy prevention, this indicates that pregnant and breastfeeding women are actually free to eat what they wish, within reason.

This is supported by a study finding that eating allergenic foods during pregnancy can protect the baby from food allergies, but especially if the mother also breastfeeds. Combination of in utero and breastfeeding exposures to allergens is said to induce optimal food tolerance.

  • It is recommended that high allergen foods like dairy and eggs be first given at home instead of elsewhere like at day care or in a restaurant. Before doing this, however, babies should have already successfully tolerated some of the basic solids.
  • Wheat may be given early. Two studies that support early introduction of wheat found that five-year-olds who hadn’t been fed wheat at six months had a higher risk for wheat allergy and that delaying introduction until the sixth month didn’t protect against the development of wheat allergy.
  • Dairy products may also be introduced before the first birthday. Studies indicate that cow’s milk in baked goods, cheese, and yogurt given to infants below one year old appeared to be safe. Take note, however, that this is not a go-ahead for giving cow’s milk to babies younger than a year old.
  • Fish may be introduced before the ninth month. Doing this may actually reduce the risk of eczema at one year of age.
  • Food avoidance may lead to a higher allergy risk. Studies found that babies who ate eggs at six months seemed less prone to be allergic to them than those who only had them when they were older. The same is true with regards to peanuts.

Nevertheless, keep in mind that peanuts and peanut butter are both choking hazards. Also, always exercise prudence. If somebody in the family has a peanut allergy, it’s best to have the child tested for it before peanuts are introduced.

Weapon Against Allergy

The best thing you can do to try and ward off allergies is to breastfeed your children. It has been proven that breast milk helps babies develop a more efficient immune system.

All the same, when babies enter the second year free of allergies, do not rejoice just yet. Their immune system still isn’t completely mature, so an allergy may still develop. Onset may occur later on in life as well.

Ultimately, the important thing is to keep the immune system robust. There’s always a better chance of fighting any health issue when immunity is high.

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