Preventing Allergies and Asthma in Children

August 12, 2016
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There is substantial evidence that suggests that allergies and asthma run in families. Children with one or more parents who have some form of allergic disease are far more likely to develop the conditions themselves; however, it may not be inevitable. There are steps that you can take to reduce your child’s chances of developing allergies or asthma.

Food Allergies:

The most common food allergens include nuts, fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, wheat, and soy. The severity of these allergies can range from mild to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Evidence suggests that restricting potentially allergenic foods during pregnancy or while nursing does not offer any benefit in preventing allergies. Whenever possible, women are encouraged to breastfeed their infants for at least the first four to six months. Breast milk is easy to digest, strengthens the baby’s immune system, and is the least likely to trigger an allergic reaction. If breastfeeding is not possible, it is best to choose a hydrolyzed infant formula that is hypoallergenic.

You can start introducing single-ingredient baby foods when your child is between four and six months of age. It is best to add foods one at a time starting with foods that have the lowest potential for triggering an allergic reaction, including

  • apples
  • pears
  • bananas
  • sweet potatoes
  • squash
  • carrots
  • green vegetables
  • rice
  • oat cereal

Add a new food every three to five days. This will allow you to identify and eliminate specific foods that may trigger an allergy in your child. You can introduce eggs, nuts, and shellfish during this same time after adding the less potentially allergic foods.

Environmental Allergens:

Using allergen-impermeable mattress covers, washing bedding frequently, eliminating carpet, and keeping indoor humidity below 50 percent may help prevent or control allergies to dust mites. Recent research suggests that early exposure to animals, especially cats and dogs, may delay or prevent the development of pet dander allergies. Making sure that your child is not exposed to tobacco smoke before or after birth can significantly reduce their chances of developing allergies, asthma, and other respiratory conditions.

If you suspect that your child has asthma, it is important to consult an allergist or immunologist as soon as possible for the proper diagnosis and treatment.

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Dr. Chacko and Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN. See the video here.