Mariam Zarei, M.D.
Board-Certified, Pediatric and Adult Allergy & Immunology
Family Allergy, Asthma, Immunology & Sinus Center
Q: Our toddler has food allergies. Can I expect the same for our newborn and what can I do to help prevent these allergies?
A: If one sibling has established a food allergy, there is an increased likelihood that subsequent children will have allergies. Parents are naturally concerned and want to know how to prevent the development of such sensitivities.
New guidelines, issued in 2008 by the American Academy of Pediatrics, state it is beneficial to breastfeed newborns for at least four to six months. At about that time, solids can be introduced, starting with fruits and vegetables and adding new foods each week. In this way, milk and eggs will be introduced at about 12 months of age. The same guidelines state that dietary restrictions for pregnant and nursing women is unlikely to reduce the child’s risk of developing allergies and may be potentially harmful to both the mother and developing infant.
If your family already avoids certain foods, such as nuts, because of an allergic child, it is essential to continue doing that. Although this helps prevent exposure to the allergic child, there are no hard facts showing it will benefit the next child.
The good news is that up to 20% of children with peanut allergy and more than 80 to 90% with milk and egg sensitivity will outgrow their allergy by school entry. This occurs naturally and is thought to happen through very complex immunologic mechanisms and possibly because of the maturation of the gastrointestinal tract.
While indiscriminate testing of suspected allergies is discouraged, a comprehensive assessment of a child who has a suggestive history of serious allergic reactions is the best way to evaluate the situation and provide individual advice for the family.