Are you concerned about your baby developing a peanut allergy? New guidelines recommend introducing peanuts before age 1 in some children.
Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies in the U.S. Up to 2 percent of children and adolescents are allergic to the legume — and that number has doubled in Western nations over the last 10 years.
Peanut allergy, a severe and potentially fatal immune response to certain peanut proteins, develops early in life and is rarely outgrown. Why some children develop peanut allergies or why the prevalence has grown in recent years is unknown.
For many years, national guidelines recommended that women avoid peanut consumption during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. These same guidelines recommended that children under age 1 should not be given peanuts.
However, a 2015 study in The New England Journal of Medicine shows that early introduction of peanuts to babies at high risk for allergy reduces the development of peanut allergy later in life by about 80 percent.
As a result, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases released new guidelines in January 2017 for peanut allergy prevention. They provide specific recommendations depending on the child’s risk of developing peanut allergy:
If your baby meets the criteria for early peanut consumption, waiting offers no benefit, according to Maria Garcia-Lloret, MD, UCLA pediatric immunologist. “Babies are born with an immune system that has an enormous capacity to adapt to the environment and early exposure to certain allergens facilitates tolerance,” she says.
Talk to your baby’s doctor about safe ways to incorporate peanuts into his or her diet. Because a spoonful of peanut butter or whole peanuts are choking hazards, try small amounts of watered-down peanut butter instead.
Most peanut reactions in infants occur within seconds to minutes of ingestion and many happen on first exposure. Signs and symptoms may include:
More severe symptoms that may require immediate medical attention include:
If you’re concerned about peanut allergy in your child, schedule an appointment with an allergy and immunology physician at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital.
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