Can Kids' Food Allergies Be Prevented?

Can Kids' Food Allergies Be Prevented?

When we’re pregnant, the list of what we can and can’t eat seems to grow longer by the minute, with someone always sharing their advice about what’s best for the baby we’re carrying. One of the most common pieces of advice that you’ll hear is to avoid allergenic foods while pregnant and breastfeeding as they can often lead to lifelong allergies when your child is born, scaring many mothers away from the peanut butter jar for at least nine months.

As medical science learns more and more about allergies, this is just one of the myths that have been busted. Health professionals have concluded that there is no link between a mother who ate an allergenic food and their baby developing an intolerance or allergy for it later in life, so feel free to reach for that peanut butter jar again. So, what other things are helpful to know in order to keep your child allergy-free and can you save yourself the hassle and fear that comes with food allergies?

What Are Food Allergies and Why Do They Occur?

Allergies refer to a response by your immune system that occurs when your body thinks a particular food is dangerous. For some people, an allergic reaction can happen almost instantly after ingesting certain foods, whereas others have a more delayed reaction. The most common reactions you’ll see when a child has an allergic reaction are hives, swelling of the lips, eyes or face, and occasionally vomiting.

Where food allergies can get really scary is for those children and adults who have severe reactions instead of these somewhat milder ones. Some people may experience life-threatening symptoms that affect the airways and circulation which can cause wheezing, difficulty breathing, and possibly even collapse. 

These types of food allergies are quite common in Australia with around one in 20 babies and one in 10 children having some sort of allergic reaction to certain foods. The most common foods that kids are allergic to include tree nuts, peanuts, egg, shellfish, milk, wheat, and soy, so you do need to watch out for quite a few.

According to the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, the rise in children presenting to hospital with allergic reactions has doubled in the US, UK, and Australia in the last ten years. In Australia alone, the problem seems even more severe, with up to five times as many admissions to hospital for children suffering from anaphylaxis due to allergies.

Is There Anything You You Can Do To Stop Them?

Unfortunately, allergies for most are something that they’ll be predisposed to, and there is no way to reduce the likelihood of them developing one, even with the right intake of food. However, some studies have indicated that early exposure to both peanuts and eggs has been proven to reduce the risk of allergies. For professional advice on when to begin introducing these foods to your baby, speak with your GP or child health nurse.

A recent study performed on mice found that traces of egg protein carried through the mother’s breast milk were found to give an allergic reaction in the babies; however, it’s unknown whether these findings translate to humans as well. According to the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, it’s still okay to enjoy allergenic foods like eggs and peanuts in your diet while breastfeeding and pregnant, so there’s no need to give anything up.

The Future of Allergies for Australian Kids

The landscape for allergies certainly has changed in the last 20 years, and it seems that everywhere you go you hear about gluten intolerances or nut allergies forcing day care centres and schools to become completely nut free. The University of Western Australia is leading a study into whether our own consumption of allergens can impact our children, and although it will be years before conclusive results are found it will be good to have some definitive answers eventually.

The good news is your child may grow out of many of these food allergies present in infancy and toddler years. Although this isn’t the case with everyone, it’s nice to know that there is some hope the condition won’t be a lifelong thing.

Along with everything else we have to worry about as mums, allergies are not another stress you want to add to your list. With a bit of caution and the right strategy when testing these foods out, you can be sure you have a clear picture of your child’s nutritional needs and sensitivities. For more information on health and nutrition for your little one, click here to read the rest of the Peachymama blog.

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