In 2010, 2% of children had a peanut allergy, which was up from 0.4% in 1999. (1) Before you dive into giving your child peanuts, it’s important to introduce other foods to make sure he can tolerate food. Then you can start to phase in peanuts, making sure to follow these specific guidelines to prevent peanut allergy.
A five-year study examined 640 high-risk, 4-11-month-old children who had eczema and/or a severe egg allergy. (1) Half of the children were given peanut foods. The results showed that there was up to an 86% reduction in peanut allergy with the children who were given the peanuts. Additional research saw that this lasted even if peanuts were taken out of the diet afterward. (2) Read more about this in The Best Time to Introduce Peanuts to Your Child. This was a big step to show that introducing peanuts early is safe and can help prevent peanut allergy when done in the proper amounts and at the right time.
Some infants may be at higher risk for peanut allergy than others. Risk depends on many factors, one of which is the prevalence of food allergies in the immediate family. Risk increases as the number of family members who have that allergen increases – one parent, versus two parents, versus parents and sibling. There are three main categories – high, moderate, and low risk. (3)
A high-risk child has an egg allergy, moderate to severe eczema, or both. It is important not to introduce peanuts until speaking with a health care professional. The time for allergen introduction is also sooner for this population, starting from 4-6 months of age. You can offer the peanut food the first time at the doctor’s office to be safe. After that, the key is to make sure your child has 2 grams of peanut protein three times per week. Examples of this amount are given later on in this article.
If your child has mild eczema, it is an indicator that he or she may be at moderate risk. So, at 6 months, or shortly after, you can introduce peanuts at home.
A low-risk child has no symptoms of allergy or eczema. Similar to moderate-risk, you can introduce peanuts at home at 6 months or after. Just make sure not to wait too long!
Exposure via breastfeeding and early introduction can reduce sensitization (symptoms from eating the food will likely be inconsistent), but there is still not a solid answer in terms of reducing food allergy. If you don’t love peanuts, don’t force yourself to eat them. However, if you don’t mind them, or if you absolutely love them, feel free to include them. Tree nuts and seeds (i.e., sesame) and all nuts are safe during pregnancy. There are even other known benefits of eating nuts and seeds during pregnancy and for general health. More research is still needed about the maternal diet and how it influences allergies.
Keep in mind that each child may tolerate different tastes and consistencies, so adjust as necessary when mixing water, fruits, or vegetables.
For an even more in-depth look at the research around preventing peanut allergy, check out The Best Time to Introduce Peanuts to Your Child.
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