If there are lots of allergies in your family, should you steer clear of allergenic foods like eggs, fish and nuts while pregnant?

Speaking before Allergy Awareness Week, head of clinical services at Allergy UK , and allergy doctor Dr Joe FitzGibbon, who runs allergy clinics in Dublin and Galway, outline the current allergy advice for pregnancy and weaning...

Warner says: "There's a lot of conflicting information around what advice to follow when trying to prevent your baby from developing allergies, even before they're born. The latest advice for expectant mums is that there's no need to avoid any particular foods (such as peanuts) unless they're allergic to them, as this hasn't been shown to prevent allergies.

"Omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and fresh - not tinned - tuna) may help reduce the risk of eczema and allergic sensitisation (development of allergy antibodies) in early life. Try to include some of these in your diet, but remember that pregnant women shouldn't eat more than two portions of oily fish a week.

"There's no evidence that any particular foods can prevent allergy either when pregnant or when weaning your baby. Advice is therefore to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, including plenty of vegetables and fruit to provide vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre.

"With regards to weaning, when you and your baby are ready (from around six - but not before four - months of age), you may start to offer them solids including vegetables, fruit, protein and starchy foods. At this stage, you don't need to add salt or sugar to any foods or recipes.

"If your baby is considered at higher risk of developing allergies, either through family history, severe eczema or other food allergies, research shows they may benefit from the earlier introduction of complimentary foods (solids), including food containing egg and peanut.

"If you have any concerns about your baby with regards to allergies or significant eczema, talk to your health visitor or GP."

And FitzGibbon says: "You'd imagine we'd have a simple answer to a simple question, but we don't. Considerable research has looked at how we can reduce the risk of allergy in children. Attempts have been made to intervene at all stages of development, to alter mum's diet while the baby's still in the womb; alter mum's diet while the baby's being breastfed; and looking at how and when to introduce new foods to the weaning infant.

"Some studies held early promise of a positive effect, but others showed no beneficial effect, or even a worsening effect. This was true for a range of dietary interventions, as well as supplement and probiotic use.

"The bottom line then, for both normal and high-risk expectant mums, is they should eat a full and healthy diet. If they're high-risk (i.e. already have a child with severe eczema and food allergy), they could consider using one of the low-allergy infant formulae, as this could delay onset of eczema.

"When it comes to weaning, my advice would be to carry on as normal, and not to avoid any specific food for fear of allergy. Delaying the introduction of some foods may actually increase the risk of becoming allergic to them."