How To Prevent Food Allergies
To reduce the odds, follow these precautions
While no one can predict whether your child will be among the 5 percent of U.S. kids with a food allergy, "if you have no family history, the risk is considerably lower," says Jay Portnoy, M.D., vice president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. To reduce the odds even further, follow these precautions:
Feed your baby only breast milk for the first six months. Introducing cow's milk-based formula or solid foods earlier is associated with an increased risk of allergies. But nursing is far from foolproof, so if you or your mate has a food allergy, avoid eating the suspect food while nursing--or pregnant.
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.