Thursday, 18 September 2014

5 Ways To Prevent Allergies In Children

We all know that there is an increasing trend in people suffering from allergies worldwide. Is there a way we can try to prevent or reduce the possibility of our young ones from being afflicted by allergies right from the start? published an interesting article on this topic and I would like to add my thoughts too. Read entire article by here.

#1 Breastfeed your baby

There is a saying that breast milk is pure gold. This could not be further from the truth. Breastfeeding boosts the immune system for the little ones to help them fend off infections and be less susceptible to allergies. Lendon Smith, M.D., author of numerous books on children's health has this to say:
"If babies are given anything other than breast milk in the first few months of life, food sensitivities may develop. Their intestines are not meant to digest anything other than breast milk." 
Absolutely! There is a reason why mother nature provides mommy with the ability to feed her child her own milk. A mother's milk contains the most complete nutrients with just the right amount of fat, sugar, water and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and development. The proteins and fats in breast milk are also easier to digest. I have not heard of any babies being allergic to breast milk.

If for some reason, breastfeeding is not possible, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology recommends the use of hydrolyzed infant formulas instead of cow’s milk formula as a preventive strategy.A hydrolyzed formula is one where a protein in either cow's or soy-based milk has been broken down into tiny parts. This makes it easier to digest the proteins, which are the usual cause of allergies.

I am glad I made the choice to breastfeed my child for 12 months. It is not easy: bearing with the initial pain, struggles when one didn't get the technique right and also more time consuming. But it is all worth it!

#2 Introduce solid foods later on

Postponing solid foods and breast-feeding longer gives the infant's immune system more time to properly mature. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that children who were started on solid foods before four months of age were much more likely to experience chronic or recurrent episodes of eczema than children who were not introduced to solid foods at such an early age.

After four to six months, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology recommends single-ingredient infant foods including fruits, vegetables and cereal grains to be introduced one at a time. This gradual process gives parents a chance to identify and eliminate any food that causes an allergic reaction.

Yup, I waited till my child was almost 6 months before introducing any solid food to him. And the first food that I gave him was avocado, which he still loves eating now.

Where possible, it is best to avoid or delay giving the child processed food due to the presence of addictives, preservatives, colouring etc. Whole foods are the best, be it for children or adults.

#3 Avoid early immunization

This is a contentious topic. They are some who opposes any form of immunization strongly while they are others who feel the benefits outweigh the cons. I am kind of standing on the fence on this topic.

First of all, childhood immunizations are compulsory in my country, Singapore. Without it, you cannot attend school. I am not sure if there are special cases for exemption possible. All kids here have a health booklet which display the immunizations they have taken.

There is the "hygiene hypothesis" theory that suggest that babies needed to be exposed to infectious diseases for their immune systems to develop in a good way. Thus childhood immunization prevent children from developing healthy immune systems. However, according to National Center for Biotechnology Information, researchers have systematically looked for and analysed large studies that recorded both vaccinations and allergies or asthma. They found no strong consistent link between vaccination and allergies.

An experienced TCM (traditional chinese medicine) doctor once told me she believed that immunization is the cause of kids' weaker immune system and falling sick often. This, she said, was not common at all a few decades ago.

On my part, I had to go with the scheduled immunization for my child as he needed to go school. However, I did delay his MMR jab as long as possible till he was just about to go school.

Edit: You can read more here on the camp that advocates immunization and the opposition.

#4 Allergy-proof your home 

According to the article, exposing your child early on to indoor environmental factors such as molds, smoke, dust mites, and formaldehyde in housing materials, can have a direct effect on blocking airways and can indirectly cause sensitivities to allergens. Being able to reduce exposure to air pollutants, reduces the likelihood of developing sensitivities or chronic allergic reactions.

Agree and disagree. Agree that reducing exposure to air pollutants like cigarette smoke and chemicals used in housing materials are essential for preventing allergies in children. Smoking during pregnancy or after is a big NO NO. Secondhand smoke has long been shown to increase the development of asthma and other chronic respiratory illnesses. Even if you do not smoke in the presence of your children, the smoke particles can linger on for hours to days and inhaling them will be detrimental to their respiratory system for sure. This is known as thirdhand smoke. It is best that you can quit smoking altogether.

On the other front, being exposed to molds, dust mites and pollen are unavoidable. They are everywhere and part of our lives. Much as we keep the house as clean as possible, I don't believe that "allergy-proofing" the house will prevent allergies in children. Yes, avoiding these will certainly help reduce their allergic condition IF they are already suffering from allergies. But avoiding them right from the start does not help in prevention in my opinion.

This is also something interesting that you may want to take note from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology:
"The relationship between early life exposure to animals and the development of allergies and asthma is somewhat confusing. Previous evidence suggested that children exposed to animals early in life are more likely to develop allergies and asthma. More recent research seems to show that early exposure to animals (cats and dogs in particular) may actually protect children from developing these diseases. Newer research also suggests children raised on farms develop fewer allergies and asthma."

 #5 Taking Probiotics During Pregnancy & While Breastfeeding

This is something that I would like to add on that is not mentioned in the article. Probiotics are the good bacteria found in our digestive system. Bacteria living in the gut and the digestive tract are linked to our immune health. Thus it is important to balance the good bacteria (probiotics) with the bad to maintain a healthy gut.

Some studies have shown that taking probiotic supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding may protect people from developing allergies later in life. Probiotics are generally known to be safe for pregnant women and children. This is something worth a try if you think your child is at risk of developing allergies and want to give them a head start.

I would also recommend you read AskDrSears: 5 Steps to Track and Prevent Your Child’s Allergies for more information and resources on children allergies.

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology
National Center for Biotechnology Information

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