What you should know about childhood allergies

One in 11 children now live with asthma, and with the dramatic rise in allergies that we've seen in the last 20 years parents want as much information as possible to prevent and treat any allergic reactions. But the lack of specialists, the glut of so-called complimentary therapists and the widespread and frequent publication of conflicting messages on the subject have all made it so confusing to know what to do, where's a mum to start? Dr Hilary Jones has the answers.

Hayfever

Family history

Having a family history of either asthma, hayfever or eczema increases the risks of your children also having allergies significantly.

Eating nuts during pregnancy

During pregnancy it is no longer recommended that mums-to-be avoids allergenic foods like peanuts or shellfish as there is no evidence that this makes the prospect of allergy in their child more likely.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding if possible for the first four to six months is recommended as the least likely to cause atopy in the child and for developing the baby's immune system.

If breastfeeding isn't possible for any reason, using hydrolysed infant formulas as hypoallergenic substitutes over cow's milk or soy formulas is recommended.

Weaning

When a solid food is introduced between four and six months it's suggested that less allergenic foods are introduced first, and if there is no reaction then the more allergenic types of food can be introduced shortly after. It's now widely believed that delaying the introduction of foods like peanuts containing products after the first four to 11 months of life can actually increase the risk of food allergy rather than decreasing it.

Dust and smoke

Reducing a baby's exposure to house dust mite and to tobacco smoke remains important for reducing allergy risks in the future.

Dr Hilary Jones is a doctor, presenter and medical writer, and is working with the charity Haydn's Wish to raise awareness of the potential dangers of undiscovered allergies in children and improve the diagnosis of allergies and how to treat them with the 'Best to Test' campaign.

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