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Can food allergies be prevented?

A baby is more likely to develop a food allergy if the parents or siblings have allergies. Our limited knowledge on the causes of food allergy means much controversy exists on which measures may help prevent food allergy in a child.

In 2004 a European expert group recommended exclusive breastfeeding (no solid foods nor supplementary infant formula) for the first 4-6 months of life. If breastfeeding for infants with a high risk of developing allergies is not possible, hypoallergenic formula should be used to reduce the likelihood of developing allergies. The same expert group recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women do not need to eat a special diet.

In 2000 an American expert group stated that infants with a high risk of developing allergy might benefit from late introduction of some of the common allergenic foods namely dairy products, eggs, peanuts, nuts, and fish. Whether this practice is beneficial or might even increase the risk for food allergy is currently not known.

Recently several articles indicate that cessation of smoking during pregnancy, while breast-feeding and in the environment of the child may also help prevent food allergy.

More information

The article from the European expert group:

  • A. Muraro, S. Dreborg, S. Halken, A. Host, B. Niggemann, R. Aalberse, S.H. Arshad, A.A. Berg, K.H. Carlsen, K. Duschen, P. Eigenmann, D. Hill, C. Jones, M. Mellon, G. Oldeus, A. Oranje, C. Pascual, S. Prescott, H. Sampson, M. Svartengren, Y. Vandenplas, U. Wahn, J.A. Warner, J.O. Warner, M. Wickman, R.S. Zeiger (2004). Dietary prevention of allergic diseases in infants and small children. Part III: Critical review of published peer-reviewed observational and interventional studies and final recommendations. Pediatr Allergy Immunol 15, 291-307.

The article from the American expert group:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Committee on Nutrition (2000). Hypoallergenic infant formulas. Pediatrics 106, 346-349.