Before Your Child Starts Solid Foods, Read This
Introducing peanuts to infants at an earlier age could help prevent the development of peanut allergy, according to a study conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD).
As a result of the study, physicians now recommend introducing peanut-containing foods to infants as early as four to six months of age, especially those infants who are deemed at high risk for food allergy because they already have severe eczema, egg allergy or both.
Until now, recommendations suggested completely avoiding peanut-containing food as a way to protect a child.
However, the new science suggests the earlier a child is first exposed to peanuts on a regular basis, the more likely the body is to produce the necessary protective antibodies.
“This is a groundbreaking study with concrete evidence and specific data,” says Anita Chandra-Puri, MD, a pediatrician with Northwestern Medical Group. “While we do not know why there are more and more kids with food allergies, the earlier you can find out if your child has peanut allergy, the more peace of mind you’ll have as a parent.”
Always consult a physician first to discuss foods that may pose allergy risks for your baby, or tests that may need to be done before introducing peanuts. Children may start solid foods when they have good head control, can sit upright in a highchair and are able to eat from a spoon. Pediatricians recommend starting with infant cereal, followed by pureed veggies, fruits and meats. Once your child is tolerating these foods well, you can introduce more allergenic foods, such as peanut butter.
“From peanut free classrooms to peanut free days at baseball parks and changing foods that are offered on airlines, peanut allergy requires diligence. If we can prevent the development in high risk children, we can save lives and avoid life-threatening situations,” says Dr. Chandra-Puri.
Nearly 15 million Americans have food allergies, and almost three million are allergic to peanuts. Most life threatening allergic reactions are caused by peanuts, and while the allergy tends to present early in life, about 20 percent of children are likely to outgrow it.