Preventing Food Allergies in Children

Was this helpful?
(1)
Chinese mother holding sleeping newborn

Did you know if food allergies run in your family, your child is at risk of developing one, as well? Even having allergies like atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis or asthma can make your child more likely to have a food allergy.

But is there any way to prevent this? While there are no drugs or treatments that can actually prevent allergies, there are some things you can do during pregnancy and during your child’s infancy that may prevent a food allergy later in life.

The Pregnant Mother’s Diet

Some mothers with a food allergy believe restricting their diet while pregnant will prevent them from passing the allergy on to their baby. But most pediatricians don’t recommend this approach. There’s currently no evidence that shows restricting your diet during pregnancy will prevent allergies in your child. In fact, research from the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (AAAAI) found no significant protective benefit against food allergy when mothers avoided allergenic foods like dairy, egg and peanuts during pregnancy.

The Nursing Mother’s Diet

The AAAAI also found no protective benefit against food allergy when mothers avoided certain allergenic foods while breastfeeding. But their recent guidelines state that exclusive breastfeeding for at least four months may be protective against cow's milk allergy in infants. Breast milk is an ideal source of nourishment for your infant since it’s easy to digest and helps boost your child’s immune system. In fact, breast milk is the milk source that’s least likely to trigger an allergic reaction in your baby, and some believe it may even reduce early eczema and wheezing.

If you’re unable or choose not to breastfeed or pump, talk to your doctor about milk substitutes that are hypoallergenic.

The Infant’s Diet

While parents have traditionally been advised to avoid introducing certain foods to children until they are older in order to prevent an allergy, that advice is changing. The latest recommendations from the AAAAI state that delaying introduction of foods like wheat, cow's milk dairy, eggs, fish and nuts may actually result in an increased risk of food allergy or eczema in children.

There is recent evidence that exposing children to peanut allergens in their first year of life might help prevent a peanut allergy later in life. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that exposing infants to bits of peanut butter offered initial protection for most children at high risk of developing an allergy. This protection lasted for a year after the children stopped consuming the peanut butter.

Researchers are still studying the effects of introducing other foods in infancy to prevent allergies, but the AAAAI recommends that once an infant over 4 months old has tolerated a few non-allergenic solid foods, you can then start to introduce other more allergenic foods without delay.

When you begin to add solid foods to your little one’s diet, the best approach is a slow one. Start with mashed or pureed whole foods, such as fruits like apples, avocadoes, and bananas, and vegetables such as green beans, sweet potatoes, and carrots, as well as grains (rice or oat cereal). Try one at a time, every three to five days. Once these foods are well tolerated, then you can move on to the more allergenic foods, such as eggs, dairy, nuts and fish.

When and how you decide to introduce new foods to your child is ultimately an individual decision based on your family’s history with allergies. But be sure to consult your pediatrician before you begin this process so you can map out a plan together.

Was this helpful?
(1)
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2018 Jul 7

  1. Prevention of Allergies and Asthma in Children. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/prevention-of-allergies-and-asthma-in-children

  2. Food Allergy; Prevention. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/basics/prevention/con-20019293

  3. Food Allergies. Symptoms, Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment. National Institutes of Health. NIH Medline Plus. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/spring11/articles/spring11pg24-25.html

  4. Can Food Allergies Be Prevented with Diet? Kids With Food Allergies. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/page/prevention-of-food-allergies-pregnancy-infancy-diet.aspx





Explore Allergies
  • Learn more about the genetics of allergies and causes of allergies affecting the face and eyes.
    May 5, 2020
  • How do doctors diagnose and treat different types of allergies? Learn more about seasonal allergies, food allergies, allergies to medication, and allergies with asthma.
    May 1, 2020
  • For people with seasonal allergies, acupuncture may help relieve allergy symptoms like itchy eyes and sneezing. Learn more about acupuncture for allergy and whether acupuncture can help treat allergies.
    May 1, 2020
  • Find out where U.S. spring allergies season is the toughest and see if your hometown is among the worst cities for spring allergies.
    May 1, 2020
Recommended Reading
  • Asthma that's worse at night—known as nocturnal asthma—indicates your asthma is not well-controlled.
    May 28, 2019
  • Instead of scratching, try some other strategies for addressing the itch that’s a common problem with eczema.
    November 30, 2018
  • Chronic hives cause unpleasant symptoms that can make it difficult to enjoy life. Fortunately, treating hives is possible with your doctor’s help and guidance.
    January 25, 2019
Next Up
Answers to Your Health Questions
Trending Videos