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Peanut Allergies in Children — Can Parents Reduce the Incidence?

Peanut Allergies in Children — Can Parents Reduce the Incidence?

For years parents have been concerned about kids with peanut allergies.

It’s not just our own children, either, as we have to worry about those to whom we give food or even come into our homes.

We even have to think about whether our kids’ lunches will put others in danger.

Did you know that 1 in 13 children in the US have an allergy to peanuts?

That means there are at least two kids in the typical classroom with a peanut allergy.

Allergy Facts

The prevalence of peanut allergies in children has been growing.

Researchers from Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) number food allergies at 15 million Americans.

The cost of allergies is nearly $25 billion a year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013 reports that peanut allergies in children increased 50% between 1997 and 2011.

Every three minutes, an allergic reaction results in an emergency room visit.

FARE reports that children with food allergy are 2-4 times more likely to have conditions such as asthma and other allergies compared with children with no food allergies.

Unfortunately, kids with peanut allergies usually have them throughout their lifetimes.

While it is important to diagnosis and manage allergic reactions, avoiding the allergen is crucial.

Or is it?

Recent Research

We have probably all heard in the news lately that there may be a new position about nuts.

In the past, the American Academy of Pediatrics encouraged parents to avoid all peanuts for affected kids and even warned women with peanut allergies to not give any peanuts to their kids just in case.

Two studies have disputed the way we treat our kids with regard to peanuts.

One study proposed that the true rate of peanut allergies was 10 times lower than we suspected when kids were given peanuts from a young age compared to those kids who weren’t given any peanuts.

Another study found that when young kids were given peanuts early compared to kids who were not, they had an 80% lower risk of developing peanut allergies.

New Guidelines for Parents

After review of these two studies, the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has issued new guidelines to help doctors and parents adopt a new way of treating, and even in thinking about, peanut allergies.

These guidelines will help parents introduce peanuts to their children from an earlier age.

If a baby shows signs of other immune system disturbances, such as eczema that doesn’t respond to treatment or has shown signs of an egg allergy, they are at increased risk of a peanut allergy. They recommend not giving these babies peanuts before 4-6 months of age and preferably give them in a doctor’s office in case a reaction occurs.

For other children, the guidelines recommend begin giving peanuts beginning at six months. Other solid foods should be given before any peanut containing foods.

Naturally, we wouldn’t give young children whole peanuts but instead use the recipes from NIAID you can find below.

The theory is to train children’s immune system to view peanuts as harmless instead of a threat by introducing them early and slowly, thereby preventing the incidence of peanut allergies.

The guidelines are not based on family history of allergies but the babies’ own reactions to eggs and the presence of eczema.

NIAID Recommendations for Parents

Introducing peanuts into the diet of our children can be scary.

Here are recommendations from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID):

  1. Give the first peanut feeding at home and not at a day care facility or restaurant.
  2. Ensure at least 1 adult will be able to focus all of his or her attention on the infant, without distractions from other children or household activities.
  3. Arrange to spend at least 2 hours with your infant after the feeding to watch for any signs of an allergic reaction.
  4. Prepare a full portion of one of the peanut-containing foods.
  5. Offer your infant a small part of the peanut serving on the tip of a spoon.
  6. Wait 10 minutes.
  7. If there is no allergic reaction after this small taste, slowly give the remainder of the peanut-containing food at the infant’s usual eating speed.

NIAID Recipes

Because we don’t want to give children whole peanuts before they are able to chew, here are some ways to incorporate peanuts into your child’s feeding safely so that you can build their immunity to nuts according to the new guidelines.

Thin Peanut Butter – 2 teaspoons

  1. Measure 2 teaspoons of peanut butter and slowly add 2 to 3 teaspoons of hot water.
  2. Stir until peanut butter is dissolved, thinned, and well blended.
  3. Let cool.
  4. Increase water amount if necessary (or add previously tolerated infant cereal) to achieve consistency comfortable for the infant.

Peanut Flour – 2 teaspoons

  1. Measure 2 teaspoons of peanut flour or peanut butter powder.
  2. Add approximately 2 tablespoons (6-7 teaspoons) of pureed tolerated fruit , cereal or vegetables to flour or powder. You can increase or reduce volume of puree to achieve desired consistency.

NOTE: Discuss your plan to add peanuts to your child’s diet with your pediatrician to ensure your child meets the standards for early introduction. Some children may show signs of allergy and need to ingest peanuts in the safety of the doctor’s office.

Unnecessarily avoiding foods can lead to limiting nutritional intake.

Some children with more than one type of food allergy have been shown to have reduced growth due to nutrient restrictions.

Preventing the development of a lifelong need for dietary restriction and potential life threatening episodes is in everyone’s best interests, especially our children!

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