Family Allergy History? Take Precautions Now
"Studies suggest that mothers from families with a history of allergies should refrain from eating peanuts through the duration of breastfeeding to avoid introducing peanut proteins to their offspring," says allergist-immunologist John M. James, MD, Fort Collins, Colorado. "A nursing mother should also avoid eating other foods that a baby is allergic to, which most commonly are eggs and cows' milk."
Approximately 6 percent of children may develop a food allergy by the age of two, and studies suggest infants with a family history of allergy may be two to three times more likely to develop an allergy. Exclusive breastfeeding of infants for the first 6 to 12 months of life is often recommended to prevent the development of milk or soy allergies during infancy.
Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder and president of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), stresses that all new mothers, as well as mothers-to-be, should be informed about the seriousness of food allergies. "Prenatal education is important, so that by the time a mother begins nursing her newborn, she will be equipped with the strategies to mitigate the chances that her baby will develop a food allergy," she says.
FAAN has created a brochure, "Preventing or Delaying the Onset of Food Allergies in Infants," that lists strategies and precautions for mothers of babies who are at risk for developing an allergy. The brochure also includes food allergy basics, and contact information for additional resources, such as the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).
"Children with severe food allergies require special precautions," says Barbara E. Magera, MD, chairwoman, ACAAI Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee, Charleston, South Carolina. "Parents and all caregivers must be informed on how to prevent and manage a child's allergy reaction, including the administration of epinephrine (adrenaline).
"Parents should also make sure that epinephrine is immediately accessible in their child's classroom and that multiple school staff members are trained in its administration," Dr Magera says.
Between 6 to 7 million Americans are estimated to have a food allergy, and this number is continuing to rise. Food-induced anaphylaxis is believed to cause about 30,000 trips to the emergency room annually. It is also estimated that between 150-200 people die each year, some of them children, because of severe allergic reactions to food.
"Currently, the only reliable therapy for food allergic reactions is restriction or complete elimination of the responsible food allergen and emergency management of reactions in case food allergen is accidentally ingested," Dr James says.
Food allergy management tips from the ACAAI and FAAN include:
For more information about FAAW, or to request the "Preventing or Delaying the Onset of Food Allergies in Infants" brochure, contact FAAN at (800) 929-4040 or online at www.foodallergy.org. For a free copy of the brochure "About Food Allergies," call the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology toll free number (800) 842-7777 or visit its web site at www.allergy.mcg.edu.