Reducing Risk of Food Allergies in Babies

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While food allergies can’t be cured or prevented, there are a few things that can help with reducing the risk of food allergies in babies.

Allergies tend to run in families, so a baby with parents who have allergies is at a higher chance of developing a food allergy. Babies with eczema also have a higher chance of developing a food allergy. Many children will grow out of their allergies, but for some, this can take years. Symptoms can be mild to severe, can start rapidly, or be gradual or delayed.

Most of the time, an allergic reaction might cause mild to moderate symptoms (rash or a sore tummy) but in rare cases, it can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. If a child reacts to a certain food every time it’s eaten, they likely have an allergy to that food. Read on to learn how you can reduce the risk of your child developing an allergy. 

Include allergenic foods in your own diet

Restricting a mother's diet of specific allergens during pregnancy and while breastfeeding isn’t recommended as a means to prevent food allergies. Research indicates that there is no significant allergy prevention benefit to your baby if you avoid highly allergenic foods during this time. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should eat a healthy, balanced diet, including allergenic foods. Cutting allergenic foods out will not prevent a food allergy in your infant.

Breastfeed if you can. If you suspect your baby has a cows’ milk protein allergy, extensively hydrolyzed formulas are recommended under 6m of age. Over 6m of age soy formula is also an option.

Introduce solid food around 6-months of age

Research shows that if you give your baby foods that they are likely to be allergic to before they turn one, it may reduce the risk for children developing some food allergies. Begin introducing solid foods at around six months old and when the baby is showing signs of readiness for solids. Introduce one food at a time every 2 to 3 days (give them foods the family usually eats) and continue breastfeeding/formula feeding. 

An allergist may need to be consulted if allergic reactions like moderate to severe eczema occur or if strong allergic reactions run in the family. 

Expose your child to a variety of foods

All infants should be given the common food allergens (peanut, tree nuts, cow’s milk, egg, wheat, soy, sesame, fish, and shellfish), including smooth peanut butter, cooked egg, dairy, and wheat products within their first year of life, unless you already know they are allergic to the food. Add common allergens one at a time. Add a new food every two to four days to give you time to notice any reaction. Introduce one new food at a time so that if a reaction does occur, the problem food can be more easily identified. Once you have introduced the allergen to a baby's diet, repeated exposure is important to prevent an allergy from developing.

Seek professional advice

If you think your baby has a food allergy, go to your GP for advice. Your child might need to see an allergy specialist for a skin prick or a blood test to identify which foods are causing the reaction and for future monitoring to check if they grow out of the allergen. 

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