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 News Archive
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
"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
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
"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
Babies born to mothers who took avoidance measures were less likely to
develop symptoms of asthma: Only 11%
exhibited symptoms by the age of 3, compared with 43% of babies whose mothers
didn't avoid the offending foods.
Robert Wood, MD, director of the division of pediatric allergy and
immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in
Baltimore, tells WebMD that pregnant women should not feel guilty if they
do not want to follow avoidance measures.
"I explain to my patients that exposure [to food allergens] in pregnancy
seems to be a risk factor in some studies, but the results are not consistent.
We don't have the answer," he says.