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Preventing Allergies in Children
Children are more likely to develop allergies and asthma if their parents have allergic disease.  If one parent has allergies or asthma, a child is 40% more likely to develop allergies and asthma.  If both parents have allergies or asthma, a child is up to 70% more likely to develop allergies and asthma.  This section will help to educate you on steps which may be taken to help your child avoid, delay, or diminish the severity of allergies and asthma.

Avoiding food allergies
Children who have food allergies may display symptoms ranging from skin rashes,, such as eczema, to life life-threatening allergic reactions such as asthma.  Since newborns and infants may be more likely to develop allergies than older children, one of the best ways to avoid food allergies in children is to delay exposure the foods which most frequently cause allergic symptoms in children.   It is recommended that mothers breast feed  for the first four to six months of life, if possible, since breast milk may strengthen the child’s immune system and is much less likely to induce allergic reactions.  If you are not able to breast feed, formulas such as Alimentum or Nutramigen, which contain partially pre-digested, protein hydrolysate formulas are recommended over milk- or soy-based formulas.  Consult your allergist to find out what formula is best for you.

Solid foods are not recommended for infants less than six months of age.  Vegetables, rice, meat and fruit should not be introduced into a child’s diet before the child is 6 to 12 months of age.  Foods should be introduced one at a time, to give the parents time to observe allergic responses if they occur.  This way, foods that produce an allergic response can be identified and removed from the child’s diet.  Once a child is at least one year of age, milk, wheat, corn, citrus and soy may be added, one at a time, to a child’s diet. Eggs should not be introduced into a child’s diet until two years of age.  Fish and Peanuts may be introduced once the child is three years old.

Avoiding environmental allergies and asthma

Since airborne substances may trigger allergy or asthma, reducing contact with air born allergens, when possible, can help to delay or prevent the onset of allergy or asthma symptoms. This is especially important for newborns when both parents have allergic diseases such as asthma. Among the most provocative substances are   house dust and the mites which live in this dust.  Dust mites are microscopic creatures related to spiders.  Dust mites often found in large quantities, even in very clean households. Taking aggressive steps to control dust in the homes of high-risk children is an important step in reducing the incidence of allergies and asthma in early life.   Steps may include the use of allergen proof covers on bedding; washing bedding in hot water weekly, keeping indoor humidity below 50%, and keeping the child’s environment as dust free as possible. Removing things such as carpets, upholstered furniture or other objects which collect dust from the child’s bedroom is also helpful.

The evidence regarding exposure to animals has not yet shown a clear association between early exposure and the onset of allergic disease.  If you have pets, you will need to consult your allergist, who will determine the best steps for you to take to protect your child from developing allergies to the pets.  Your allergist will be able to give you the most current information regarding exposure to animals and the development of allergies in children.

Other factors which may contribute to childhood asthma

Exposure to smoke and second hand smoke has be shown to cause wheezing in infants.  Children exposed to smoke have an increased chance of developing asthma and other respiratory illnesses. 
Respiratory infections are a common trigger of asthma in children.  Breast feeding, because it helps to bolster a child’s immune system, may decrease the incidence of respiratory infections and reduce the child’s risk of having asthmatic symptoms. 

Conclusion

New research is being conducted to help determine the best methods for avoiding allergies and asthma in children.  If you are a parent with allergic disease, you should consult your allergist on the most current methods of reducing your child’s chances of developing allergies.

Copyright © 2008-2010 Dr. Beth Cowan