Recent research suggests that daily exposure to cats in the first year of life may protect a child from developing allergies. In one study, babies whose families owned a cat that was allowed in the baby's bedroom were 67% less likely than others to develop asthma and 45% less likely to develop hay fever. Another study looked at children whose parents had a history of asthma or allergies. Children exposed to higher levels of house dust had less eczema in the first year of life. Exposure to a dog in the home at 2 to 3 months of age was also linked to less eczema in the first year of life. Other studies suggest that a reasonable level of exposure to common germs and dust may protect children from developing allergies, eczema, and asthma. So try not to worry too much about keeping a healthy baby's environment sterile and germ-free. A little exposure to the world-cats, dogs, dust, and all-seems to play a role in building a strong immune system.
Peanut allergies on the rise
While no one is sure why there has been a dramatic increase in the number of children severely allergic to peanuts, one suspected culprit is skin cream that contains peanut oil. A recent study shows that children whose skin was treated with lotion or cream containing peanut oil in the first 6 months of life were more likely to develop a peanut allergy. Babies with eczema and rashes were more likely to develop the allergy than others. Before applying a lotion to soothe diaper rash or dry skin, check the label to make sure it does not include peanut oil.
Q:“Are there things I should avoid feeding my baby during the first year of life?”
A:For the first 9 months of life, avoid feeding your baby citrus fruits and eggs, since both of these tend to cause allergic reactions. Peanuts are a major allergen and many allergists suggest not giving peanuts to children until 4 years of age or older. Finally, raw unpasteurized honey, the kind that you buy at a roadside stand, can carry botulism spores that can cause infant botulism. In general, introduce new foods to your baby one at a time. Begin with one teaspoon of food and increase to 3 or 4 teaspoons once or twice a day. If something disagrees with your baby and causes gas or an allergic reaction, you will know which foods to avoid in the future.