The prevention of allergies has been of interest for decades to the allergy specialist and their patients. Since allergies and asthma run in families, special prevention efforts have been directed toward children of allergic or asthmatic parents.
Although allergies cannot be uniformly and definitively prevented, recent information suggests that there are steps an allergic family can take to slow or reduce the occurrence of allergies in their infants.
Prevention of Food Allergies
The primary strategy for preventing food allergies is to delay exposure to potentially allergenic foods, since newborn infants may be more susceptible to food sensitization than older infants.
Breastfeeding is recommended for at least four to six months. In infants who are not breastfed, or to supplement breast milk, protein hydrolyzed formulas such as Nutramigen and Alimentum should be used instead of soy- or milk-based formulas, since these protein hydrolysates have shown to be less sensitizing.
Solid foods should be delayed until six months of age. When infants are six to twelve months old, vegetables, rice, meat, and fruit can be incorporated into their diets.
Each meal should be introduced one by one so parents or caregivers can identify and eliminate any foods that cause a reaction. After the child is one year old, milk, wheat, corn, citrus fruits, and soy can be added every two weeks or every month. Finally at two years of age, eggs, peanuts, and fish can be considered. This diet has been shown to reduce or delay food allergy and eczema in infants of allergic parents.
Prevention of Allergies to Inhalants
Animal studies suggest that there is a great risk of becoming allergic to substances in the air to which the animal is exposed shortly after birth. Similarly, the development of allergy to mites in children has been linked to the amount of early exposure to mites. In addition, the development of a cat allergy in children is associated with the presence of a cat in the home at birth. Although definitive data are lacking, this suggests that certain steps that aggressively control mites can reduce the occurrence of allergies. These include using plastic covers on pillows and mattresses, washing bedding in hot water every seven to ten days, avoiding high relative humidity within the walls, and, optimally, removing rugs, upholstered furniture, and dust-storing objects. the nursery.
Since allergies can develop asthma, it is not surprising that infants exposed to low amounts of dust mites while breastfeeding are less likely to develop allergic asthma. Thus, aggressive mite control should reduce the occurrence of asthma as well as upper respiratory allergy.
Also, exposure to pets while breastfeeding can increase the risk of developing asthma. Additionally, maternal smoking during pregnancy is associated with increased wheezing during infancy in children of smokers, and exposure to passive smoking has been shown to increase asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases during childhood. Therefore, it is very important that infants are not exposed to secondhand smoking prenatally or during childhood.
Finally, respiratory infection is a common asthma trigger and it is possible to initiate it. Therefore, maneuvers that reduce the frequency of respiratory infections in infancy, such as breastfeeding and avoiding daycare for very young children, may be helpful in preventing asthma.
It is not possible to completely prevent allergies in young children with the knowledge that we currently have, although genetic and cell engineering promise hope for absolute prevention in the future. In the meantime, parents with allergies or asthma can make the environmental changes and use the prevention strategies discussed to help them at least reduce or slow the occurrence of allergies and asthma in their children.
Your Allergist can provide you with more information about the prevention of Allergic diseases.