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8.2 Specific advice on allergies and asthma in children: Experiences


This article is from the Children Allergies and Asthma FAQ, by Eileen Kupstas Soo kupstas@cs.unc.edu with numerous contributions by others.

8.2 Specific advice on allergies and asthma in children: Experiences

From Andrea Kwiatkowski:

One child and I have asthma and both children and I have food allergies
and are on special diets right now. One child and I are receiving
allergy shots. One suggestion that I have deals with the section about the
benefits of a pediatric/regular allergist. My 6 year old and I go to the
same one together. It was strongly suggested by my allergist to
reevaluate myself since allergies change and the shots have gotten much
better than when we were children. It REALLY HELPED Sarah to have mom
get tested and shots with her. All three of us get our flu shots
together at the pediatrician's office.

A great book on this topic and many others dealing with allergy in
children is "Is this Your Child" by Dr. Doris Rapp. She deals with common
allergy problems, providing pictures of symptoms and more controversial
ideas such as allergy control to improve behavior (dramatically improved
in my children), deal with ADD, epilepsy, etc.

From Heather Madrone (madrone@cruzio.santa-cruz.ca.us)

From _Counseling the Nursing Mother_ by Lauwers and Woessner:

"The most common food allergen in infancy is cow's milk, with three-fourths
of such allergies beginning the first one to two months of life. Cow's milk
formulas do not contain the antibodies necessary to protect the infant's
intestines and for sensitive infants, the foreign protein of cow's milk
passes through the intestinal wall causing allergic reactions. These
reactions may manifest themselves as colic, diarrhea, vomiting, malabsoption,
eczema, ear infections or asthma. Symptoms of allergy are seven times
more prevalent in formula-fed infants than in breastfed infants, presumably
because of cow's milk. There is also the possibility that other food
antigens cause allergy responses in these infants, since solids are frequently
started at an earlier age in formula-fed infants.

"There are almost no antibodies in the immature intestine of a newborn infant,
leaving the wall of the intestine susceptible to invasion by foreign
proteins. Human milk contains a high level of antibodies, especially IgA,
which are thought to provide an anti-absorptive protection on the lining
of the infant's intestine, shielding the surface from the absorption of
foreign proteins as well as from bacterial infections.

and ....

"For any infant, with or without allergic tendencies, breast milk is
best able to protect him until his intestinal tract and immune system
mature. In one study, babies who were exclusively breastfed for
six months were no longer susceptible to eczema, food allergy or
asthma, despite an hereditary risk of such ailments. Breastfeeding
will not totally eliminate food allergies; however, it will greatly
reduce their incidence or delay their onset."

For a good discussion of allergies in children, see George Wootan's
_Take Charge of Your Child's Health_.

Anecdotally, in 3+ years as a breastfeeding counselor, I've noted that
children weaned before six months often have a very high incidence of
illness (particularly ear infections) and allergic reactions. Children
nursed longer than 18 months tend to be ill less frequently, have few
or no secondary infections (such as ear or sinus) and exhibit few signs
of allergy. Our pediatrician concurs in this and claims that the longer
a child nurses, the healthier the child.

From Kate Gregory ( xtkmg@blaze.trentu.ca)

[maintainer: brackets indicate an edit]

[on how to avoid wheat, berry-fruits, citrus fruits, fish, dairy
products, chocolate, eggs, honey and nuts for the baby's first year]

We have a number of allergies on my husband's side of the family
and we followed this regimen for my son's first year (my daughter's
first year ended five years ago today and I can't remember what
she ate when.)

The hardest thing to avoid was wheat. We found many wheat-free cold
breakfast cereals and they made excellent finger foods. We used rice
and oat mush too. Cooked rice in place of pasta, that sort of thing.
We have anothr family member with a wheat allergy (and a niece who
gained ONE POUND between 12 and 24 months because of multiple food
allergies) so we already know what has wheat and what doesn't,
automatically. [Some brands are wheat-free; you need to look for the
brands that are sold in your area. Be sure to check biscuits, cakes,
bread-products, crackers, pasta and semolina. Be wary of anything
with flour or just "starch".] I wouldn't get all het-up about one
bite of something thickened with a teeny bit of starch. But anyway,
we fed mostly single-ingredient stuff. (Eg a jar of baby peaches:
ingredients: peaches.)

[On avoiding citrus fruit (orange, grapefruit, lemon) and citric acid;
specifically on avoiding Vitamin C]
That's probably taking it too far, and besides I don't recall seeing
any baby food every with added Vitamin C. Don't give citrus juice,
pieces of citrus fruit to eat, or lemon sauces.

Note to UK readers: The above is US. One reader UK states :" Large
numbers of varieties contain vitamin C, lemon juice or ascorbic acid.
The 'natural' brands tended to use lemon juice, the cheaper brands
vitamin C. Heinz 'Pure Fruit Banana and Apple' is the most annoying -
I discovered it contains lemon juice as a bleaching agent, but you'd
only know that by reading the *tiny* ingredients list."

[On fish and seafood products]
If you must ignore one of these categories, pick this one. Soft
white fish is a nice high protein soft food. Also canned tuna is
a major treat for my kids and has been for a long time.

[On dairy products, including milk, cheese, yogurt, lactic acid, lactose,
casein, skimmed milk powder]
Read baby cereal boxes carefully to check for formula added. Some
families do yogurt at 9 months, but since my kids react with colic to
dairy in *my* diet in the early months, I stayed clear of dairy the
full 12 months.

Note to UK readers: The above is US. One reader UK states :"Skimmed
milk powder is one of the number one food additives in 80% of baby
food I looked at. Nearly all baby cereals, except Baby Organix (one
of the most expensive) contained skimmed milk powder. Even a 'Fruit
and Soya' dessert I discovered contained lactose!"

[On nuts and nut oils]
High quality peanut (groundnut) oil doesn't have the protein
in it. It's the cheap stuff that does. Some peanut allergies are fatal
and typically it's from something like "peanut oil in the cake
icing" where the victim could never have known.

Note to UK readers: The above is US. One reader UK states :"The
problem is, you don't know what quality of oil the food manufacturer
used when he says 'groundnut oil'. In this country, it does not even
have to be labelled if it is below a certain proportion."

[On honey]
No exception on this one. Infant botulism is bad bad news. I rather
doubt people are selling baby products sweetened with honey, still.

... my kids started eating completely different from us, then moved
slowly towards what we ate. By about 15 months the meals consisted
entirely of "family food". My kids still (6 today and 2 today!)
eat 3 extra snacks a day and those are usually high fat because
little ones need more fat.

At 6 months, its baby mush (rice or oat) made with expressed
milk, and some veggies or fruit from a jar. At eight or nine
months the jar mush has been replaced with soft (cooked if
necessary) fruit or veg, cut into tiny pieces, and the baby
mush supplemented with cold breakfast cereal such as Oatios
(Cheerios have a little wheat starch.) If we're having rice
or mashed potato, some for the baby. If we're having a cooked
veg, some for the baby. Also at about 9 months, soft fish
(but no shrimp etc because I'm allergic) and cooked (very
well cooked) ground beef.

At 11 months or so it's tiny shreds of meat from our plates,
veggies, whatever wheat-free starch we're eating. If we're
having spaghetti (no tomatoes for us before a year) then
baby has a separate meal. By 12 months whatever we're having,
baby has, and we gain crackers, toast, scrambled egg, yogurt,
cheese etc as snack items. Introduced one a a time of course.
The big convenience is when you decide a store-bought
cookie, from the bag, is OK.

Sure it's a huge hassle for those 6 months. But I assure
you from this long perspective that it fades to part of
that first-year blur. And the theory goes that this
will prevent food allergies (though not all: I certainly
didn't have any shrimp in my first year) and I can assure
you that dealing with a life long allergy is far more of
a pain. At least an eight month old doesn't come home from
school in tears (or covered in hives) because of feeling
pressure to eat what others eat.

[On the risk of a nutritionally imbalanced diet during the
first year, if all possible allergens are avoided]
I would ask your doctor to expand on this. What is nutritionally
risky about this if the child is still taking breastmilk? What
nutrients should you worry about? There is Vitamin C in potatoes,
calcium in broccoli, iron in raisins...


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