Introducing Peanuts to Young Infants Can Help Reduce Food Allergies

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As one of the most common food allergies, peanuts can cause anaphylaxis and are potentially fatal. Food allergies among children are on the rise, and scientists have been researching for decades to try and understand this phenomenon, and how to reverse the trend.

In the past, parents were given various advice when it comes to introducing this potentially harmful food. For some time, women were advised to cut peanuts from their diets while pregnant, but newer studies found that children whose mothers ate peanuts were less likely to acquire an allergy to the food.

Parents were also advised to withhold peanut products from young children. Some studies even suggested waiting until the child was 7! This was easier said than done; peanut products can be hidden in unexpected places like egg rolls, many bakery items, sauces, and even pizza.

The newest research published in The New England Journal of Medicine could be a game-changer: introducing the high-allergen foods to young infants may significantly decrease the likelihood of the child from developing a food allergy. In the study, 640 infants who were high-risk to develop a peanut allergy were told to either avoid or consume peanuts until 60 months of age. The results showed 17.2 percent of the children who avoided peanuts acquired an allergy as compared to only 3.2 percent of the children who did not.

So, when is the best age to start giving your child peanut products? Usually, 6 months to 1 year is a good timeframe to begin. Peanut butter is a good starting-point, and giving the child small amounts is recommended.

Parents are encouraged to not introduce any other foods during this time, keeping a food diary, and even having an antihistamine on hand, especially if the child is prone to allergies.

Watch for these signs of a peanut allergy:

  • Skin reactions, such as swelling, hives, or redness
  • Runny nose
  • Digestive distress (vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach cramping)
  • Wheezing or other breathing issues
  • Tight feeling in throat
  • Itching or tingling sensations, especially near the mouth or in the throat

In the event of an allergic reaction, contact your doctor and give your child the age-appropriate dose of Benadryl. In the event of a severe allergy that involves anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing), contact 911 immediately.

RELATED: What Parents Need to Know About Allergic Kids

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