Recommendations to prevent further sensitisations and allergies in babies and children.
At present, we still do not understand all the circumstances that give rise to allergies and what counteracts allergies. However, the latest research does enable us to derive important and useful recommendations for allergy prevention in everyday life.
Recommendations for allergy prevention
Everyone gets half of their genetic characteristics from their mother and father. These genes have an influence on eye or hair colour, but also on the risk of certain illnesses, such as allergies. In addition, babies are already influenced by various environmental and lifestyle factors while in the womb, which can increase or reduce their risk of allergy later. The causes of the increasing number of allergy sufferers are currently the subject of intensive research. The following insights have already been gained in respect of allergy prevention.
Mother’s diet during pregnancy and breast-feeding
A healthy, balanced diet is important for the mother-to-be and her child. If a mother has no food allergies or intolerances, she does not have to stick to a diet; leaving out specific foods cannot prevent allergies from developing in the child.
If possible, the child should be exclusively breast-fed, at least during the first four months of life. If partial/full breast-feeding is not possible, an infant formula (baby bottle) is an appropriatealternative. There are hydrolysed formulas for children at risk for allergies (parents or older siblings have allergies) . But it remains unclear, if the use of this formulas helps to prevent allergic diseases. Cow’s milk or milk from other mammals and vegetable drinks are not suitable as a substitute for mother’s milk or baby milk in the first 12 months of life.
Baby’s diet in the first year of life
From five months, the dietary recommendations no longer differ between children with and without an increased allergy risk. From this point onwards, the gradual introduction of baby foods in addition to breast-feeding is recommended. Avoiding specific foods has no preventive effect on the development of allergies. On the contrary, an age-appropriate, varied diet seems to be helpful in preventing allergies. New foods should be introduced at intervals of a few days to a week.
Infant’s diet from the second year of life
From the second year of life, children can eat the same food as that offered to the whole family. From then on, they can tolerate larger quantities of yoghurt and milk as well as cheese and curd cheese. Exception: whole nuts and peanuts should not be given until the third year of life because there is a risk of suffocation. If these nuts are contained or processed in other foods, the child may eat those foods.
If the mother smokes during pregnancy or is exposed to passive smoke, this will increase the allergy risk for the unborn child. The risk is additionally increased if the child continues to be surrounded by passive smoke after birth. This is why both mother and father should quit smoking during and after the pregnancy. The child should then grow up in a smoke-free environment.
It is debatable what effect pets have on the development of allergies. For children and adults without an increased risk of allergy, there is probably no reason to do without household pets.
There is evidence that indoor air pollutants, such as formaldehyde or volatile organic compounds (VOC), increase the risk of allergic diseases, especially asthma. It is therefore important to ensure you are using products with ingredients that are low in pollutants.
Mould and humidity
In order to prevent excessive humidity and hence the risk of mould growth, it is imperative to ensure living and working spaces are aired properly and regularly: air them thoroughly (allowing a through-draught) for 5 to 10 minutes twice to 3 times a day. Relative air humidity should not exceed 50 per cent.
Several studies have shown that the allergy risk is not increased by vaccinations. It is therefore advisable for all children – including those with an atopic tendency or those who already have allergies – to receive the basic vaccinations according to the Swiss vaccination schedule.
Current scientific findings show that a healthy bodyweight reduces the risk of asthma or lessens the severity of asthma. It is therefore important to avoid being overweight during infancy and early childhood.
Not all occupations are equally suitable for young people with allergies or known sensitization. It is therefore important to take this into consideration when choosing a career. GPs, allergy specialists and other professionals offer support in clarifying the situation.
Editors: aha! Swiss Allergy Centre in co-operation with the Scientific Advisory Board.
aha! Swiss Allergy Centre helps
- aha! keeps a list of HF/FH certified and experienced nutritionists who have qualified and recognized training and have completed advanced training on the subject of food allergies and intolerances. Nutritionists
- aha!shop: aha!shop: Booklets and factsheets (e.g. Allergy prevention) provides detailed information and are available in German, French, Italian. The booklet "Allergies – simple to explain" and the questionnaire "Do I have an allergy" is available in English
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- Products and services awarded the Swiss Allergy Label – an added benefit for sufferers.
- aha!kinderlager for children with allergies aged between 8 and 12 years: holidays full of variety with lots of sports, play and fitness. Under expert supervision, children learn to deal better with their allergies and/or asthma.
- aha!jugendcamp for youngsters aged between 13 and 16 years: a broad range of sports and leisure activities, skilled leaders tackle aspects of allergic diseases in adolescence.
- Education and courses on the subjects "Allergy, asthma, chronic bronchitis", "Anaphylaxis" and "Neurodermatitis"
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