Everything you think you know about peanut allergies might be about to change. In March 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new guidelines for introducing kids to peanuts in the hopes of decreasing the prevalence of this widespread allergy.
The study says babies should be given peanuts early in order to prevent allergic reactions. In fact, multiple reports in the past decades have shown the benefit of introducing peanuts to high-risk babies when they are between 4 to 6 months old (with proper medical supervision). Infants with less of a risk can start these foods at 6 months or older, following the pattern of the family’s normal diet.
Previously, kids in danger of developing an allergy were supposed to avoid any contact with peanuts for the first three years of their lives, according to Hugh Sampson, M.D., director of the Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai and a Parents advisor.
Then, in 2008, the AAP said that babies should not be refrained from eating allergens like peanuts, milk, and eggs. Being introduced to these allergens wouldn’t prevent them from developing eczema, skin conditions, and food allergies, according to the report.
But the March 2019 guidelines state that high-risk children should have peanuts in their diet much sooner. In turn, the babies will hopefully have less of a risk of developing allergies in the future.
So how can a parent know if their baby might be at high risk of developing a peanut allergy? Two main signs your little one could be ready for a peanut intervention are egg allergies or severe eczema, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Talk to your pediatrician if your child has either or both conditions; your doctor can do an allergy test to find out the best timing for introducing peanuts.
Whole peanuts are a choking hazard for infants and small children, says Drew Bird, M.D., director of the Food Allergy Center at Children's Health in Dallas. For your baby's first bites, you can stir a small amount of peanut powder into a puree or spread a thin layer of peanut butter on toast.
The sticky consistency of thick peanut butter can also be hard for little mouths to handle, so Dr. Bird recommends two teaspoons of smooth peanut butter mixed with two teaspoons of warm water for babies just starting solids.
It's also important to keep serving your child peanuts once they've been introduced. "Foods that are in the diet more frequently are less likely to cause problems down the road," Dr. Bird explains. He also stresses that children who have already been diagnosed with a peanut allergy should continue to use the same caution around peanut products as always.
If your child does have an allergic reaction, symptoms may include swelling lips, coughing, vomiting, or rashes that look like mosquito bites around the mouth or other parts of the body, and they would begin almost immediately after eating. If your child has a reaction, call your doctor immediately.