Monday, March 08, 2010

WebMD and food allergy prevention

I read an article on WebMD the other day about preventing food allergies in subsequent children when one child has already been diagnosed with food allergies. This is a topic that concerns me for obvious reasons, as my son has multiple severe food allergies. So far, most of the information I've read has been conflicting and inconclusive. The basic debate is whether or not pregnant women should utilize avoidance measures to prevent food allergies in their children. According to the study referenced in this article, women that took avoidance measures were less likely to have children with food allergies. However, at the end of the article is the following disclaimer:

Robert Wood, MD, director of the division of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, tells WebMD that pregnant women should not feel guilty if they do not want to follow avoidance measures.

"I explain to my patients that exposure [to food allergens] in pregnancy seems to be a risk factor in some studies, but the results are not consistent. We don't have the answer," he says.

I think that for the mother of a child with one, or maybe even two, food allergies, taking avoidance measures would be fairly straightforward. But for someone like me that would have to avoid multiple foods it is considerably more complicated. Although I work hard to ensure that my son has adequate nutrition despite his food allergies, it would be more difficult for me to do the same for myself and a growing fetus. Not impossible, but difficult. And eliminating multiple foods has its own risks, which have to be weighed against the risks of the baby developing food allergies.

Unfortunately, past experience has shown me that the numbers might not be on my side. For example, the majority of women experience their water breaking with their first child while they are home in bed. Only a small percentage of women experience their water breaking while they are standing, because the baby's head acts as a cork. Very few women are in public when this does happen. I was walking around Wal-mart when my water broke, I was one of the few. Children who are breastfed develop food allergies at a lower rate and of those who do develop food allergies, they are less likely to have multiple food allergies. I breastfed my son well past his first birthday, and yet he is allergic to four of the big eight. He is one of the few. To be honest, I would be quite upset if I avoided all of those foods, breastfed, and my child still developed multiple food allergies. There's a lot to consider when making this decision.

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