Early introduction may prevent peanut allergy

By Mina Radman • Published: April 19th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Parents no longer need to fear peanuts. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recently issued new health guidelines that encourage parents to introduce peanuts to their kids’ diets early to help them avoid peanut allergies.

Peanut allergies affect about 2 percent of children and can be life-threatening. Peanut allergies cause more fatal anaphylactic reactions, or obstruction of the airway, than any other food allergy. Kids who develop the allergy usually do not outgrow it and must forever be cautious about peanuts.

What are the new guidelines? It depends on the child. Infants without an egg allergy or eczema are considered low-risk for developing a peanut allergy and can be introduced to peanut products when they reach 6 months old and start eating solid food. Infants with severe eczema or an egg allergy are considered high-risk and should be introduced to peanut products as early as 4 months old.

It’s best to do so at the pediatrician’s office, where the doctor can monitor the child’s reaction.

Peanut products refer to items like peanut butter because babies can choke on whole nuts. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests mixing a teaspoon of peanut butter with water to create a manageable consistency for infants. Once introduced safely, children can eat peanut products a few times per week.

These new guidelines won’t prevent every case of peanut allergy, but experts hope they’ll lead to fewer cases overall. Parents who are interested in introducing peanuts to their child’s diet should ask their pediatrician what category their child falls into and whether any other factors, such as a family history of peanut allergies, would affect them.