Breastfeeding will protect your baby from allergies

NOTE: The information contained in Dr Bernadette Carr's column is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.

¦ I have food allergies and want to reduce the risk of my newborn baby developing them. Is this possible?

>> Food allergy is an adverse immune response to a food. As you have food allergies yourself, I can understand your concern.

There a number of reasons for allergies and one of these is a family history. While one in 10 babies develops an allergy if neither parent has an allergy, this figure does increase if one or both parents have an allergy. If you are breastfeeding your baby, this will not pass on your allergies to the baby but in fact protect your baby.

You can prevent food allergies by:

¦ Breastfeeding for six months (but at least for four months). If a supplement is required then use hydrolysed protein formula (because you have food allergies). It is recommended for infants up to four months of age. If the infant has no sign of allergic disease, then he or she can be nourished normally.

¦ Holding off on introducing solid food for at least four months (preferably six months).

I would advise you to make an appointment with your GP to discuss your own food allergies and how solid foods might be best introduced to your baby’s diet. Most children who develop an allergy to eggs or milk do grow out of this as they get older.

If you suspect that there may be an allergy or intolerance, or if you are concerned about your baby in any way, you need to bring your baby to your GP.

He/she will advise you on your baby’s diet to ensure the diet is packed with all of the nutrients that are needed as part of a balanced diet and also to assess the need for any tests if an allergy is suspected.

¦ My 12-year-old son has developed white spots on his finger nails. Are they due to a mineral deficiency? If so, what foods do I need to include in his diet?

>> There can be a number of reasons for white spots on nails; most people will have white spots at some point in their lives. It is always important to show your GP any changes in the nails who can check for damage or injury to the finger nails, or if there is any underlying cause for the white spots.

It is possible that the spots may be as a result of injury to the base of the nail called the matrix. Sometimes this could be related to fungal nail infections or a zinc deficiency. However you should discuss this with your GP.

In the meantime here are some suggestions to consider: ¦ Make sure your son is not biting his nails. ¦ Make sure he has a stable diet by eating plenty of fish, whole grains and green vegetables. ¦ Nails should be cleaned gently with a nail brush; you could watch him when he cleans the nails and check that he is not being over zealous.

Before visiting your GP it would be helpful if you could talk to your son before the visit and find out if he can recall any injury to his nails, perhaps playing sports or banging it against something. I am sure that your GP will be able to reassure you and your son.


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