An allergist answers the common question: Is there anything parents can do to help their newborns avoid allergies? (Photo: Getty Images / iStockphoto)

Children can develop allergies at any age. The first sign of allergic disease is atopic dermatitis or eczema. Eczema can begin in the first months of life and is a risk factor for developing food allergies. Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, and asthma can develop in children at two years of age.

Development of allergy by age

Allergic reactions to food may begin in the first year of life, usually after solid foods have been introduced. Symptoms of a food reaction may include redness of the skin, swelling, hives, runny nose or sneezing. Severe symptoms may include swelling of the throat, shortness of breath, wheezing, vomiting or diarrhea.

The highest prevalence of food allergies is seen in children under the age of five.

Allergies to eggs and milk are observed mainly in young children. Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish are common in children and adults.

Does breastfeeding make a difference?

Some medical studies have found that breastfeeding exclusively during the first four to six months of life can reduce the risk of your baby developing eczema, asthma, and cow's milk allergy.

It is not recommended that you avoid allergenic foods while breastfeeding your baby. In fact, there are studies that suggest that eating these foods while breastfeeding can prevent allergic diseases. Highly allergenic foods include cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, wheat, seafood and fish.

Most children are ready to start eating solid foods between four and six months. Recent studies have shown that the introduction of highly allergenic foods can help prevent food allergies.

This contrasts with previous recommendations that advised delaying the introduction of these foods until after 12 months.

It is useful to introduce foods one at a time, so that a triggering food can be identified if a reaction occurs.

It is especially important to introduce highly allergenic foods in high-risk children for example, those with a history of severe eczema moderation, a previous allergic reaction, and a family history of allergies. If your baby is at high risk, you should talk to your doctor or consult an allergy specialist before introducing highly allergenic foods.

Chris Couch, MD is an allergist at Allergy Asthma Clinic, LTD and a clinical assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Couch, call 602-277-3337. . For more information, visit

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