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What is the best way to stop a child from developing allergies ?

To keep your child allergy-free, you need to start when they are still a baby. Ideally, breastfeed exclusively for at least the first four months (cow's milk formula is more allergic because its protein molecules are much larger than those in human milk, and so are seen as invaders by the immune system). Do not begin to wean until at least four, preferably six, months, as your baby's digestive tract is not mature enough to handle solid food and any food can trigger an allergy reaction. 

At the start of weaning, give your baby food that is easily digested - cooked, puréed vegetables and fruits are a good start. Also introduce foods one at a time to check for any possible reaction. This could be anything from a skin rash or eczema, excessive sleepiness, a runny nose, an ear infection, dark circles under the eyes, excessive thirst, overactivity or asthmatic breathing. If you notice anything amiss, stop giving that food and then introduce another once the reaction has died down. You can double check your observations a few months later when the reaction may have disappeared as the digestive system matures.

To help you, here is a list starting with the least allergenic foods to feed your baby. Omit too, for as long as possible, any others that you suspect may not suit your baby - for example, because there is a family history of allergy or because you developed an intolerance while you were pregnant.

From 4 to 6 months

  • Vegetables, except tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and aubergines (from the same family as the deadly nightshade)
  • Fruits (except citrus)
  • Pulses and beans
  • Rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat
  • Fish (preferably organic or wild)

From 9 months
  • Meat and poultry (preferably organic)
  • Oats, corn, barley and rye
  • Live yogurt
  • Nightshade family vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and aubergines)

From 12 months
  • Citrus fruits
  • Wheat
  • Dairy products
  • Nuts and seeds (but not peanuts - wait as long as you can before introducing these, and then, only organic varieties)

Once you have established a variety of foods that cause no reaction, it is then important to vary the diet as much as possible, especially with commonly allergenic foods such as wheat, dairy, soya and citrus foods. Eating the same thing over and over again long term can overtax the system and induce an allergy. But also, a varied diet will expand your child's desire for a wider range of foods - and this will ensure they are getting a broader range of nutrients.

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