of Products for Allergy Prevention Might Be Overstated
Chronic allergy sufferers are always looking for relief from constant symptoms. We have antihistamines and various creams that can work in the short term, but the gold standard for allergy treatment is prevention. Parents who are afraid that their child might develop a variety of allergies will try almost anything to see if it helps. And “thankfully”, there are dozens of products out there that do claim to help; there’s an entire industry that caters to parents who want to prevent allergies from developing in their kids. The question is, do any of these products actually work?
Internationally-renowned paediatric allergist and gastroenterologist Professor Katie Allen has stepped into the ring, taking on companies who make false claims about allergy prevention. An example of her work includes the baby formula sector. Some companies claim that by feeding your child formula instead of breast feeding, you can reduce the chances of your child developing allergies or skin conditions. Professor Allen has stated, “There is no evidence whatsoever that formula prevents food allergies and eczema. These are over-interpreted claims from the formula companies. Formula provides a great alternative for mothers who can’t breastfeed or can’t sustain breastfeeding but there is insufficient evidence that it prevents allergies.”
Professor Allen’s research has shown that the scientific trials companies use to make claims of allergy prevention aren’t actually all that scientific. Since the companies themselves are the ones who are doing these trials, there is tremendous conflict of interest and bias involved in the results. Similarly, health companies that make claims that their probiotics assist in allergy prevention are not being entirely truthful. For example, Allen’s research has shown that although probiotic yogurt won’t cause any harm, it also will not reduce allergies. Scientific studies performed by impartial groups have shown that their claims are highly misleading or inconclusive.
Another popular product for allergy prevention is vitamin D supplements. The evidence that these vitamins can help stop allergies in infants is almost non-existent. Not only that, Professor Allen has stated that we don’t even know if they could actually be harmful. “There’s no evidence anywhere in the world that informs post-natal infant vitamin D supplements — we don’t know exactly what’s best for babies.”
So if these products mislead or flat out lie to consumers about allergy prevention, are there any actual ways parents can help reduce their children’s sensitivities? Professor Allen believes that parents can best fight allergies by finding and eliminating possible allergy or eczema triggers, like food allergens and pets. She also recommends strategies like the early introduction of at-risk foods, extended breastfeeding, and applying moisturizers to any dry skin that might appear.
In the end, if there is a true cure for allergies, it probably won’t be found on the shelf at a supermarket—it will be found by medical professionals. Until that day comes, all we can do is be vigilant and keep our children as healthy as possible.
O’Brien, Susie. "Parents wasting money in allergy fight, expert claims." <http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/parents-wasting-money-in-allergy-fight-expert-claims/news-story/6ce5aa387443dd55439a32e404c5d680#load-story-comments>. The Advertiser. The Advertiser, 18 June 2016. Web. 19 June 2016.
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