In Israel, parents give their infants a popular peanut-butter snack shortly after birth. When it was discovered some years ago that children in Israel had a much lower incidence of peanut allergies than children in the United Kingdom, scientists put together a study (LEAP, or Learning Early About Peanuts) to try and understand why.
The boiled-down results were essentially this: to avoid a peanut allergy, expose your children to peanut products early and often, but only with the concurrence of your pediatrician.
If you are the parent of a child with a peanut allergy, much of your time has likely been spent trying to navigate — and teaching your child how to navigate — a world full of peanuts and peanut oils. So far, the best answer modern medicine has provided is the EpiPen and instructions for avoiding ANYTHING with peanuts, or for that matter, anything that had even come in the general VICINITY of peanuts.
Now, the experts are saying that they might have had it wrong all along! But hold on, don’t go running to the store for a jumbo jar of Peter Pan just yet. If your child already has a peanut allergy, you know better than most just how dangerous that could be. If you want to raise your child free of peanut allergies, there are certain parameters you and your child’s doctor must operate within to determine if it’s safe to expose your child to peanut products at all.
Last week, a panel of experts published new guidelines to help you and your doctor decide if and when you should introduce your child to products containing peanuts. They offer the following information based on which category best fits your child:
- The first category is for children considered most likely to develop a peanut allergy, including: infants with severe asthma, an egg allergy, or both. In this category, you can introduce your baby to peanut products as early as 4-to-6 months, working in cooperation with your doctor. This will minimize the risk of a peanut allergy. Check with your child’s doctor BEFORE introducing a peanut product. They may want to conduct tests on your child first, or send him or her to a specialist for allergy testing. Depending on the test results, your doctor will either give you the go-ahead to introduce peanut products at home, or they may recommend it be done in a specialist’s office so your child can be monitored.
- The second category is for children with mild to moderate eczema. These infants can be introduced to peanut products at the age of 6 months.
- The third category is for children with no eczema or food allergies and no family history of such. These infants can be fed peanut products at any age, based solely on family and cultural preferences.
Experts say if you follow these guidelines, there is a good possibility your child can live a life packed full of peanuts! Just be sure to keep your doctor informed along the way and talk with him or her before introducing peanut products of any kind as an extra precautionary measure.