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You've heard the buzz about the rising number of food allergies in kids: The incidence increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While there's no hard conclusion why allergies are on the rise, a new study comparing the diets of babies with food allergies to those of babies without allergies confirms a few ways to reduce your child's risk.
Read on for the helpful findings of the study published in Pediatrics, plus some classic allergy-preventing tips.
Don't introduce solid foods before your baby is 17-weeks-old.
Babies who ate solid foods before 17-weeks-old were more likely to develop food allergies than those who weren't exposed to solid foods until later, according to the study. "Our ﬁndings suggest 17 weeks is a crucial time point," write the researchers.
Don't stop breastfeeding once you start introducing food into your baby's diet: the study also concluded that breastfeeding had a protective effect against allergies once cows milk was incorporated into the babies' diets. Why? Breast milk is known to regulate the functions of the immune system.
Limit packaged foods.
A different study conducted by the same researchers found that babies who ate more fruits and veggies, and fewer processed foods, were less likely to develop allergies by the time they were 2-years-old. The study was published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Introduce new foods at least four days apart.
Then watch carefully for symptoms, such as a rash, unexplained congestion, hives, swelling, itching, vomiting or difficulty breathing. Your baby stands a better chance of outgrowing a food allergy if you identify it early and avoid repeated exposure. Some experts recommend forgoing common triggers like cow's milk until age 1, eggs until 2 and nuts and seafood until 3. But keep in mind that recent research indicates parents tend to dramatically overestimate food sensitivity in their babies. If you suspect a problem, discuss it with your pediatrician or an allergist before eliminating the food.
Check lotion ingredients for peanut oil.
If you have a family history of peanut allergies, check the labels of diaper balms, moisturizers or any other salves you might rub onto your baby's delicate skin. According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, using products that contain peanut oil on inflamed skin may be one reason for the growing prevalence of peanut allergies in children.