For every parent, the fact that allergies are becoming more and more common in childhood is a great concern. But there are things you can do to help prevent your child from developing allergy, especially if there’s a history of allergy in your family.
Most allergies develop early in life
An allergy occurs when your body’s immune system ‘over-reacts’ to a substance that is otherwise harmless. There are many different substances that can trigger an allergic reaction, but often it is a food protein, such as cow’s milk protein.
Most allergies develop in infancy, particularly food allergy and atopic dermatitis (eczema). Some children will ‘grow out’ of their allergies, however many will continue to have allergy symptoms throughout their life.
Is your child at risk?
Research shows that if a parent or close relative of a child has allergies, there’s a greater risk the child will also develop allergy. There’s an even greater risk if both parents have a history of allergy.
Use the chart below to work out your child’s approximate risk of allergy. If you think your child has an increased risk, you should speak with your doctor about it.
Influence of family history on a child’s risk of allergy
*Compared with a child whose parents/relatives do not have allergies.
You can minimise the risk of allergy
The good news is that there are things your doctor can recommend to help reduce the risk of your child developing allergy. One of the most important is to breastfeed for at least six months and continue for as long as possible. Breastfeeding is the best and simplest way to protect your child against allergy.
If you are unable to breastfeed, or if you stop breastfeeding after your baby reaches six or more months of age, clinically proven hypoallergenic (HA) follow on formulas are available. These formulas are designed to help reduce the risk of allergy.
Speak with your doctor about allergy prevention if you think your child may have an increased risk.
Soy formulas are not recommended for allergy prevention.
Expert comment from Professor Lee Bah Wah, Chairman of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore – Ministry of Health Clinical Practice Guideline Workshop on Management of Food Allergy.
According to Prof. Lee Bee Wah, even though soy-based formulas may be used to manage established cow’s milk allergy, they are not recommended as a strategy for allergy prevention.
"In short, there is no evidence that soy formulas can prevent the development of allergy," said Prof. Lee.
"Soy formulas are not hypoallergenic so they can sometimes trigger allergies. Breastfeeding remains the best choice to help protect high-risk infants, but when that isn’t possible, a clinically proven hypoallergenic formula is recommended," added Prof. Lee.
Is Your Baby at Risk of Allergy? Click here to calculate your family allergy score now.
Breastmilk is the best for babies. THe World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breast-feeding for the first 6 months and should be continued as long as possible. Unnecessary introduction of bottle-feeding or other food and drinks should be discouraged since it will have a negative effect on breast-feeding. Consult your doctor for advice if you are unable to breastfeed.