It's estimated that 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. If you're among the one out of every five people who is afflicted, then your baby is more likely to develop allergies too. The risk significantly increases -- up to a 70 percent chance -- if both parents are allergic. While allergies can emerge anytime between infancy and adolescence, you may be able to reduce or delay your child's risk by taking the following steps to decrease your baby's exposure to allergens, substances that can trigger allergies.
Reduce dust A major allergy trigger is dust, particularly dust mites. These are microscopic, spider-like creatures that hide in and on upholstered furniture, carpets, mattresses, pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals. Wipe surfaces with a damp cloth, wet-mop floors, and vacuum carpets at least once a week to keep dust under control. Special allergy vacuum bags or a vacuum cleaner equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter can increase the amount of dust that is removed. In addition, cover your baby's crib mattress with a vinyl-backed, dustproof zippered casing, and wash sheets weekly for at least 10 minutes in hot water, then dry them at the highest heat setting. Stuffed animals should also be washed weekly in hot water, or sealed in a plastic bag and left overnight in the freezer.
Control Mold To discourage mold, another cause of allergies, regularly clean household surfaces with an ammonia-based cleaner, diluted bleach, or an antifungal spray. Molds especially thrive in areas where the humidity is above 40 percent, so keep indoor humidity below that level by using a dehumidifier or running your air conditioner. And avoid using humidifiers and vaporizers. (If you need to use either, be sure to clean it weekly.)
Eliminate pet dander Cats and dogs are among the most frequent causes of allergies, so if you have a family history of allergies, you may want to delay adopting a pet for a few years until you know if your baby's allergic. If you already have a pet, recent research suggests that having a pet in the home during the first year of life may actually reduce the risk of allergies. Even so, you should groom and bathe the pet frequently and keep it out of your infant's bedroom and play areas.
Breastfeed Nurse your baby if you can, as breastfed babies are less likely to have allergies. And talk to your pediatrician about ways you can work together to keep your baby healthy and allergy-free.