Youth Services Law

Exposure May Be the Best Way to Prevent Allergies

AllergiesWe are seeing significant changes in protocols for dealing with children with allergies.  Traditionally, doctors advised completely avoiding allergens such as peanuts and pet fur.  Now research indicates that, in some cases, limited exposure may actually help prevent allergies.  The American Academy of Pediatricians issued an interim statement recommending that babies at risk for developing peanut allergies be given peanuts.  Specifically, “Health care providers should recommend introducing peanut-containing products into the diets of high-risk infants between ages 4 and 11 months.”  Of course, parents should consult an allergist to be sure that the child has not already developed an allergy.

Similarly, another study indicates that household pets can help boost children’s immune systems.  The results are still tentative, but the study cites other research showing that early exposure to animals helps protect against respiratory allergies.  The study’s coauthor concluded, that, at a minimum, avoiding animals does not prevent allergies.  “If a family with a pregnant mother or an infant wants to have a pet, the family can be encouraged to have one, because the development of allergic disease cannot be prevented by avoiding pets.”

Day care centers, of course, cannot make these decisions on their own.  But we can encourage our parents to be aware of the recent research, and to realize that mildly stressing a child’s immune system is an essential part of lifelong good health.

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