NORMAN — Q: Can I do anything to reduce the risk of my child developing food allergies?
A: Food allergies, while fairly uncommon in children, are a serious dietary concern. Most children who develop food allergies will eventually outgrow them, particularly when it comes to allergens such as milk, eggs and soy. In children there are eight foods that are common allergens. They are: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (pecans and walnuts), fish, shellfish, soy and wheat. Children who have an immediate relative with food allergies are considered high risk for food allergy development.
While there is at this time no “cure” for food allergies, there are a few things you can do to help lower your child’s risk of development. Breastfeeding exclusively for at least four months is shown to reduce milk allergies compared to feeding cows milk based formulas. Exclusively breastfeeding for the first three months is shown to reduce wheezing in children. Using soy-based infant formula has not been shown to reduce development of allergies. If breastfeeding your child is not possible, a partially hydrolyzed formula is recommended as it has been proven to have a preventative affect on high-risk infants.
While pregnant it is important to eat a well-balanced diet. Avoiding potential allergy causing foods while pregnant is not shown to reduce the child’s risk of allergy development. Avoiding these foods while pregnant can lead to an unbalanced diet and could have an adverse affect on the developing baby.
Also, solid foods should not be introduced before four to six months of age; studies show that children who are introduced to solids before that time are at a higher risk for allergy development. However, delaying the introduction of solid foods past four to six months of age will not have any additional benefit in food allergy prevention.
Introduce foods slowly and one at a time so you can be aware of any food that might cause problems in your child.
For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.