Peanut allergies. Everyone has heard of them and less than one percent of the U.S population has them. Seemingly rare, they are still important to understand and be aware of. However, new research is telling us that there may be a way to prevent peanut allergies through early introduction of peanut products to infants starting at six months of age. Don’t just take my word for it, let’s learn the facts.
1. Don’t diagnose alone.
Peanut and other food allergies are out there and can be life-threatening. This is not a topic that should be handled lightly and you should always consult an allergist if you have a concern or think your child may be at risk for a peanut allergy. This new research presents guidelines for peanut allergy prevention and how to safely introduce peanut products into your infant’s diet. A pediatrician would be able to provide a proper diagnosis and identify the type of food allergy and the risk for peanut allergies in each child.
2. National Peanut Board worked hard to create accurate research for every child’s safety.
The National Peanut Board has been working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease to present recommendations to families, schools and healthcare providers about the early introduction of peanut foods as a means to prevent peanut allergies at a young age.“While 99 percent of Americans can safely enjoy the nutritional benefits of peanuts, it’s imperative that we must all be conscientious of the way we prepare, share and consume food,” said Bob Parker, NPB president and CEO.
“At the National Peanut Board, we take food allergies very seriously. We are committed to finding a solution and to educating others about peanut allergy facts and the safe handling and preparation of peanuts and peanut products.”
3. The results saw that early introduction helped reduce peanut allergies in higher risk children.
The Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study looked at 640 infants between the ages of 4-11 months that were considered a high-risk for a peanut allergy. These children had either severe eczema, an egg allergy or both. These symptoms are typically found in infants that would be considered high-risk for developing a food allergy, such as one to peanuts. The infants were broken up into two groups. One group was given about a teaspoon of peanut butter, or a peanut-butter-based infant treat, and the other group was not. Essentially, the group that was given peanut butter benefited from the early introduction and the scientists saw a reduction in the prevalence of their peanut allergies.
4. Always be cautious when introducing peanuts and have a plan.
A parent’s main concern is that their child is safe. It’s easy to understand why a parent would be weary to trusting these new guidelines when they have been told for so many years to avoid peanut butter during pregnancy and not to give their infant peanut butter. Particularly, mothers in rural areas are concerned about the introduction of allergen-specific foods into their infant’s diets.
Kayla Guelker, a mother of two, had some concerns about introducing allergen-specific foods into her infant’s diet. She and her husband live in a small town, about 40 miles away from any emergency medical care.
“It’s scary to know that if something were to go wrong, we wouldn’t have help for about an hour. What if we don’t make it in time,” she said.
5. Your healthcare provider will advise you, but always have a plan.
She and her husband had been told by their healthcare provider to try early introduction of peanut products into their infant’s diet, but he didn’t leave them empty-handed. The pediatrician gave them careful instructions on how to safely introduce peanuts into their daughter’s diet as she was not at high-risk for developing a peanut allergy.
Guelker said that her pediatrician advised her to start with small amounts of peanut butter and then watch her daughter for a few minutes for any signs of allergic reaction. Although slightly skeptical, Guelker said she went with her pediatrician’s guidelines and was relieved when her daughter enjoyed the peanut butter and had no signs of allergic reaction.
When her second child was born, she said she felt prepared and safe to introduce peanuts into her son’s diet and was glad she didn’t have to worry.
6. There are a lot of simple ways to introduce peanuts safely.
Now that you have the facts, you can begin safely introducing peanut products into their diet (when you are comfortable and confident). While it is still not safe to give your infant whole peanuts, there are many unique recipes that incorporate peanut butter and peanut powder into their normal diets.
The National Peanut Board has also come up with easy ways for introducing peanut products early. Some moms have even found that putting a little bit of peanut powder into breast milk or formula.
7. There is more information out there!
National Peanut Board and the National Allergy Education Advisory Council have worked hard to present the facts in a simple and easy to read way at http://www.peanutallergyfacts.org. There is information for families, healthcare providers, and even schools, on how to safely introduce peanut products early in all aspects of your child’s life.
Being a parent can already be a little scary. I can’t guarantee it’s going to be easy, or that you won’t spend every second worrying about your child. I do hope this information at least helps ease minds of parents and helps them focus more on making memories with their little ones and enjoy plenty of PB&J’s together.