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Health & Baby

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How to Avoid Food Allergies in Babies

Avoiding the Offending Food From the Third Trimester Until Age 2 May Help Baby Steer Clear of Food Allergy, Study Finds
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 1, 2010 (New Orleans) -- If one child has food allergies, how can a pregnant woman help ensure her next child won't be affected too?

By avoiding exposure to the food her child is allergic is to -- starting in the third trimester and continuing into the second year of life, say researchers from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown, Australia.

Seven out of 10 babies born to mothers who took avoidance measures had no food allergies vs. 45% of babies whose moms did not follow the doctors' advice, says pediatrician and study leader Velencia Soutter, MD.

That means eliminating the offending food not only from the diet but also from the environment, she says.

"Take peanut allergies, for example. If someone eats a lot of peanuts in your house, there is going to be aerosolized peanut protein in the environment. You need a clean household," Soutter tells WebMD.

The findings were presented here at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Pregnant Moms Given Food Allergy Advice

Soutter says she undertook the study because "parents of kids with food allergies came to us asking, 'What can we do so this doesn't happen again?' They were desperate."

The study involved 274 pregnant mothers of children with peanut, egg, or milk allergies.

"We didn't tell them what to do, but gave them a lot of advice about how to avoid the food [their child was allergic to]. We started in the third trimester so everything would be in place when the baby was born," she says.

The women were also encouraged to breastfeed, which has been shown to protect against the development of allergies in some studies, Soutter says.

About two-thirds of the women followed their advice.

At 1 and 1/2 and 3 years of age, the babies were evaluated for symptoms of allergic disease and given skin prick tests to determine if they showed susceptibility to the same food allergies as their older siblings.

"The results were dramatic," Soutter says.

Thirty percent of babies born to mothers who took avoidance measures had one or more food allergies vs. 55% of babies whose moms didn't take those avoidance measures,

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