Peanut Allergy Changes You Should Know
An allergy we rarely saw as children appears rampant today. It’s hard to find an elementary school classroom that doesn’t have at least one child with a peanut allergy. This has caused many schools to ban nuts altogether. So what gives? The amount of children with peanut allergies has doubled in the past decade. What’s worse, there is no clear evidence as to what is causing the rise, only theories.
For years, it was recommended that pregnant and nursing women avoid eating peanuts and that parents avoid introducing nuts to kids early in life. It was believed that by avoiding nuts or delaying the introduction of them for the first five years of a child’s life, their susceptibility to an allergy would be lower. New research, however, suggests that early introduction may actually increase the body’s tolerance and lower the risk of developing a food allergy.
One study of 8,205 children, found that mothers who consumed high amounts of nuts as part of their peripregnancy diet, had children with significantly lower incidences of nut allergies. More and more studies have helped support the decision to rescind the recommendation against early introduction.
Guidelines for the Safe Introduction of Peanuts
Three guidelines were developed for the introduction of peanuts. The guidelines are broken down by the child’s level of risk.
- Highest risk infants – those with severe eczema and egg allergies should be introduced peanuts at 4-6 months. However, it is strongly advised that they be tested for allergies first. The first taste of peanuts should be done in the allergist’s office.
- Children with mild to moderate eczema should wait until they are 6 months of age before being introduced to peanuts. Allergy testing is not required, however, parents should consult with their child’s pediatrician around 4 months of age to prepare.
- Children without eczema or other food allergies can have peanuts introduced to their diets “freely.”
Whole nuts and chunky peanut butter should not be provided to infants. Both pose a choking hazard. This is especially true for chunky peanut butter due to its’ thick and sticky consistency. When introducing peanuts, it is important that it is mixed into a puree to avoid the infant’s risk of choking.
Food allergies can be scary, this is especially true for those considered high risk for developing a peanut allergy. The idea of introducing peanuts can be even scarier for the parents of high-risk children. If you are pregnant or have a young infant and would like to talk with us about when to introduce peanuts to your child, give us a call. Our pediatric providers will work with you to develop a plan for safely introducing peanuts into their diet.