Parents have to keep track of a lot. What to keep away from their kids, what to feed them, and what makes them happy. To make things more complicated, what the professionals are saying is always changing.
One prime example is the recommendation that kids not be allowed to eat peanut butter until three years old. The logic was that this would keep kids with peanut allergies safe before their condition can be determined. But all that is changing. Even though 1-2% of the US population has a peanut allergy and the symptoms are particularly scary (anaphylactic shock), experts now say that exposing your child to peanuts as young as four months old is the right plan of attack (1).
Food allergies have risen 50%
Estimates show that rates of childhood food allergies have risen almost 50% between 1997 and 2005, which is an incredible leap. Experts now think the rise in allergies might have to do with the rule forbidding peanuts until age three. Because allergies work a little bit like vaccinations against disease. When we inoculate babies we give them a tiny bit of the illness we are hoping to safeguard against, like rubella, mumps, or measles, but it helps their immune system learn to fight them off. Giving children small portions of peanuts at an early age has a similar effect, as it teaches the body how to process the food without having an allergic reaction (1).
Teaching the body as soon as possible
An allergy is just a huge immune system overreaction. There’s nothing dangerous about peanuts or shellfish to a child with an allergy; the danger comes from the body mistaking the chemicals in the food for a poison or a disease. So by teaching the body as early as possible that peanuts are acceptable, it should dramatically lower the overall incidence of peanut allergies (1).
The national institute of allergy and infection diseases
The guidelines on peanut use in children were set out by an expert panel sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases (NIAID) to prevent the development of peanut allergy. There is no cure for a peanut allergy; you just have to stay far away from peanuts. The reactions can be severe and life threatening. However, new scientific research has demonstrated that introducing peanut-containing foods into the diet during infancy can prevent the development of peanut allergy (2).
Reducing the prevalence of peanut allergy
NIAID director, Anthony S Fauci, MD said, “living with peanut allergy requires constant vigilance. Preventing the development of peanut allergy will improve and save lives and lower health care costs. We expect that widespread implementation of these guidelines by health care providers will prevent the development of peanut allergy in many susceptible children and ultimately reduce the prevalence of peanut allergy in the United States.” (2)
NIAID has created a series of guidelines for introducing peanuts for children of varying levels of peanut allergy risk:
Guideline 1 focuses on infants deemed a high risk of developing peanut allergy because they already have severe eczema, egg allergy, or both. Experts recommend that these infants have peanut-containing foods introduced into their diet as early as four to six months of age to reduce their overall risk.
Guideline 2, suggests that infants with mild or moderate eczema should have peanut-containing foods introduced into their diet around six months of age to reduce their risk.
And Gguideline 3, suggests that infants without eczema or any food allergy have peanut-containing foods freely introduced into their diets. (2)
If you don’t want your child to develop a peanut allergy then introducing them to the food early on is important. It will do them a world of good in the long run and will safeguard them against an allergy they’d probably rather go without. So don’t fret if your baby wants peanut butter snacks, go ahead and spread peanut butter on crackers for them, they’ll love it, and you’ll be glad they love peanut butter.
(1) Little things. Doctors Are Urging Parents To Feed Their 4-Month-Old Babies Peanut Butter https://www.littlethings.com/peanut-butter-four-months/ Accessed: January 27, 2017.
(2) National institutes of health. NIH-sponsored expert panel issues clinical guidelines to prevent peanut allergy https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-sponsored-expert-panel-issues-clinical-guidelines-prevent-peanut-allergy Published: January 5, 2017. Accessed: January 27, 2017.
(3) Youtube. Homemade peanut butter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOmIYNIeaSY Published: April 27, 2015. Accessed: January 27, 2017.