Cause of allergies - known or still up for debate?

I have a lot of allergies - none are life-threatening but they are all annoying - I have hay fever and also oral allergy syndrome.

I know that the tendency to be allergic is hereditary, that it’s not a guarantee that your child will have allergies, but it does increase their chances of developing allergies at some point.

I had a baby last fall and I am currently breastfeeding her. I have asked several sources if there is anything I can do to reduce her chances of becoming allergic or overly sensitive to allergens. I get conflicting information, which is why I’m wondering, if the cause of allergies is known for certain or if it is still up for debate.

I am also still wondering if there is anything I can do (e.g. avoid potential allergens in my own diet while I’m breastfeeding; keep the baby indoors all spring and summer to avoid exposure to pollens, etc) OR should I just stop worrying about it completely and let the allergy chips fall where they may?

I was told this yesterday, by a lactation expert whose credentials I don’t know and I am wondering if this is common knowledge, or if it is probably just her opinion:
*Another important way to protect your baby against allergies, believe it or not, is to let her get dirty. It’s even a good thing if she eats a little dirt and is exposed to some germs. Why? Because babies are born with a lot of what are called T-cells, which are just waiting around to turn into antibodies. If no germs show up, the T-cells look for something else to react to - and that’s what we call allergies. And the ideal is for the baby to be exposed to these germs while breastfeeding, so the immune factors in breastmilk can help fight off any illness and encourage the development of the baby’s immune system. *

I won’t comment of the rest of it, but I can tell you this is factually incorrect. Cells do not “turn into” antibodies. Antibodies are small proteins produced by cells. And they’re produced by B cells, not T cells. T cells are involved in the immune system, but they don’t make antibodies.

Thanks … it didn’t sound right to me either, but I didn’t know why.

Any other thoughts / opinions / facts out there about causes of allergies? I am desperate to do whatever I can to prevent my daughter from developing them.

IAMAD but I recall some recent theories about the rise in allergies being due to the excessive hygiene of our modern culture. So I would say do some research, but let your kids play outside in the dirt, and don’t give them anitbiotics unless they really need it.

As the highly allergic daughter of two loving parents, let me remind you that allergies are not the worst of all possible things that can happen to a child. Not pleasent, to be sure, but I’ve had a very good life despite some severe allergies and anticipate many more good years to come. So try not to obsess too much about this. You will not be able to save your child from everything, so do your best and try to build a resiliant character in the child so she has the coping skills for whatever life throws at her.

Second - no, the definitive cause of allergies has not been discovered. There may, in fact, be mulitple causes/factors at work.

Breastfeeding as long as possible does seem to confer some protection, but is no gaurantee. There is mounting evidence that the immune system needs some stimulation from outside things or it is more likely to turn on itself. Allergies are most common where intestinal parasites have been eliminated - which is not a reason to feed your kid worm eggs, but if the kid does turn up with something like pinworns console yourself that the exposure may have moderated any allergy problems. Then get the kid de-wormed, because as a general rule worms aren’t a good thing to have.

I’d say do the breastfeeding thing, introduce foods slowly and cautiously, avoid the worst offenders of food early in life, let the kid get dirty on a regular basis (although my fondness for mudpie making did not seem to save me from allergies), and hope for the best.