Preventing food allergies in children

December 11, 2009 12:33:45 PM PST
Food allergies can be as mild as a skin rash or as serious as a life-threatening condition called anaphylactic shock. They can make asthma or ecxema of the skin worse. An article in pediatrics online says timing of switching an infant to solid food may increase the risk of food allergy. But that may be only one factor.

Of all of Jerry Levine's children, two-year-old Joshua is the only one with food allergies. They were obvious at the age of one year.

"When he was playing with eggs, while my wife was baking, if he had egg whites on his hands and touched his face, he would break out in a rash," Joshua's father Jerry Levine said.

Two-year-old Ethan Hong is allergic to eggs, wheat, oats, milk, chicken, potatos, shrimp and rice. He would break out in rashes at a few months of age even if his mother ate the foods before breast feeding. His reactions weren't always mild.

One time, after eating a piece of cheese, his voice got coarse, and he started wheezing...but...and we called 911 and went to the ER," Ethan's mother Yumi Hong said.

Whether severe breathing trouble or a simple rash, kids may be more at risk for food allergies if they're started on solid foods later than six months rather than earlier, says the recent study. But it may not be that simple.

Allergies are complex problems with a bunch of factors involved, besudes the possibility of the age when the baby starts on solid foods.

Dr. Michelis says genetics plays a major role, and how well or poorly food elements get absorbed through the intestine. That will vary from child to child. She says how foods are introduced to a baby, that is, one at a time, is more important than when they're introduced during the first year.

One at a time for a week will let parents know if the baby can tolerate that food. Introduce cow's milk? do it with just the milk...

"Not with milk and peanut butter and shrimp, cause it may be hard to decipher if they have a reaction, what happened," Dr. Mary Ann Michelis of Hackensack University Medical Center.

Dr. Michelis also warns to be careful when introducing solid foods to which a child could be allergic, when the family history includes relatives who have asthma, exzema skin rashes, or other allergies. She says parents might hold off on those foods until a year of age.