Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
The age at which a baby is offered her first solid food may affect the likelihood that she develops food allergies later in childhood, according to new research by British scientists. Breastfeeding exclusively for 4-6 months, then introducing solid foods while still breastfeeding, the researchers found, is the best way to prevent food allergies from developing. More from The New York Times:
British researchers followed a group of 1,140 infants from birth to 2 years, while their mothers completed diaries detailing the babies’ diets and noting suspected allergic reactions to food, which researchers later confirmed by testing. They found 41 babies with confirmed food allergies, and compared them with 82 age-matched healthy controls. All were born between January 2006 and October 2007.
After controlling for birth weight, the duration of pregnancy, maternal allergies and many other factors, they found that 17 weeks was the crucial age: babies who were introduced to solids before this age were significantly more likely to develop food allergies.
The study, published online in Pediatrics, found that continuing to breast-feed while introducing cow’s milk also had a protective effect against allergies. The authors suggest that the immunologic factors in breast milk are what provide the advantage.
The researchers advised that mothers who are not breastfeeding also wait until after 17 weeks to introduce solids.
Learn how to make fresh baby food at home with our helpful guide. Then, download our charts and checklists to keep track of Baby’s important info.
Image: Baby food, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
The four to six percent of US children who experience food allergies are facing ever-rising costs, amounting to an average of more than $4,000 per child each year. More from CNN.com:
Why so many kids are experiencing allergies to common food items still isn’t clear, although experts suspect that some of the trend can be attributed to improved public health and sanitation efforts that may have made us too clean to build strong enough immunity to common allergens found in food and the environment. Kids not eating things like nuts and shellfish at an earlier age may also contribute to the rise in food allergies.
Regardless of how the shift began, however, researchers reporting in the journal JAMA Pediatrics say that the economic cost of food allergies is also reaching a peak, with families like the Cunninghams spending an estimated $25 billion per year, or about $4,184 per child. About $4.3 billion of those costs involve direct medical fees such as medications and emergency treatments for allergic reactions, with $20.5 billion going to additional yearly costs to families.
While other studies have investigated the economic toll of food allergies, few have studied in detail how these costs affect a family’s finances.
Image: Peanut allergies, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 1st, 2013
Though many children grow out of asthma they have at a young age, a new study has found that children who have severe pet allergies may have to live with their asthma well into young adulthood. More from Reuters:
Swedish researchers followed seven- and eight-year-olds with asthma through their teens and among those with the combination of severe asthma and animal allergies as kids, 82 percent still had asthma at age 19.
“Asthma is a dynamic condition which often remits but also frequently relapses,” said lead author Dr. Martin Andersson of The OLIN Studies, Norrbotten County Council in Luleå, Sweden.
Risk factors for asthma are complex and make it hard to predict which kids with wheezing or shortness of breath will still have those problems years later, Andersson told Reuters Health. As with previous research, the new study found that girls were less likely to “grow out of” asthma.
However, the link between childhood allergies to furred animals like cats, dogs and horses and persistent asthma later in life had not been seen in previous studies, Andersson said.
Image: Boy with asthma, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Every mother has been faced with what to do with a baby’s pacifier that has been tossed onto the floor. Do you rinse? Wash carefully with hot water? Or, do you just suck it for a moment to clear away the debris, and hand it back to your baby? A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that the latter method may actually have some health benefits. The New York Times has more:
In a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, scientists report that infants whose parents sucked on their pacifiers to clean them developed fewer allergies than children whose parents typically rinsed or boiled them. They also had lower rates of eczema, fewer signs of asthma and smaller amounts of a type of white blood cell that rises in response to allergies and other disorders.
The findings add to growing evidence that some degree of exposure to germs at an early age benefits children, and that microbial deprivation might backfire, preventing the immune system from developing a tolerance to trivial threats.
The study, carried out in Sweden, could not prove that the pacifiers laden with parents’ saliva were the direct cause of the reduced allergies. The practice may be a marker for parents who are generally more relaxed about shielding their children from dirt and germs, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University who was not involved in the research.
“It’s a very interesting study that adds to this idea that a certain kind of interaction with the microbial environment is actually a good thing for infants and children,” he said. “I wonder if the parents that cleaned the pacifiers orally were just more accepting of the old saying that you’ve got to eat a peck of dirt. Maybe they just had a less ‘disinfected’ environment in their homes.”
Studies show that the microbial world in which a child is reared plays a role in allergy development, seemingly from birth. Babies delivered vaginally accumulate markedly different bacteria on their skin and in their guts than babies delivered by Caesarean section, and that in turn has been linked in studies to a lower risk of hay fever, asthma and food allergies. But whether a mother who puts a child’s pacifier in her mouth or feeds the child with her own spoon might be providing similar protection is something that had not been closely studied, said Dr. Bill Hesselmar, the lead author of the study.
In fact, health officials routinely discourage such habits, saying they promote tooth decay by transferring cavity-causing bacteria from a parent’s mouth to the child’s. In February, the New York City health department started a subway ad campaign warning parents of the risk. “Don’t share utensils or bites of food with your baby,” the ads say. “Use water, not your mouth, to clean off a pacifier.”
Despite the study’s findings, parents should exercise common sense when cleaning pacifiers that have been dropped into very germ-laden situations, such as a garbage can or bathroom floor.
Image: Red pacifier, via Shutterstock
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Monday, May 6th, 2013
As many as one in 20 American kids are affected by either skin or respiratory allergies, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found. CNN.com has more:
Food allergy prevalence increased from 3.4% to 5.1% between 1997 and 2011, while skin allergy prevalence more than doubled in the same time period. That means 1 in every 20 children will develop a food allergy and 1 in every 8 children will have a skin allergy. According to the CDC, respiratory allergies are still the most common for children younger than 18.
The new report, which looked at data from the National Health Interview Survey, found that skin allergies decreased with age, while respiratory allergies increased as children got older.
Both food and respiratory allergies also increased with income level, meaning richer families had higher rates of childhood allergies. Hispanic children had lower rates than non-Hispanic white and black children in the survey. The report did not look into the potential reasons for this.
Scientists are still trying to figure out where allergies come from, and why they’re on the rise in the United States. Internal bacteria, genetics and environment may all play a role, says Dr. Edward Zoratti, head of the allergy and immunology division at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
Image: Girl scratching her arm, via Shutterstock
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