Background: One hundred twenty children, identified before birth as being at high risk for atopy, were prenatally assigned to prophylactic or control groups.
Methods: The infants in the prophylactic group either received breast milk from mothers on an exclusion diet or an extensively hydrolyzed formula. Their bedrooms and living rooms were treated repeatedly with an acaricide, and they used polyvinyl-covered mattresses with vented head areas. The infants in the control group were fed conventionally, and no environmental control was recommended.
Results: A significant advantage, first demonstrated at 1 year of age, persists for children in the prophylactic group. They have less of any allergy or eczema, but the reduced prevalence of asthma is no longer significant. Only three children in the prophylactic group had positive skin prick test results compared with 16 in the control group, suggesting a significant reduction in sensitization.
Conclusion: A dual approach to allergen avoidance, focusing on foods and aeroallergens, appears to be beneficial in selected high-risk infants. Avoidance of potent allergens in early life increases the threshold for sensitization in these high-risk infants. Whether sensitization has been avoided or merely deferred has yet to be proved.