Food allergies are a hot topic and a big concern for parents and with good reason: They can be dangerous. Over the last few years, there’s been some big, and positive, news about peanut allergies in kids – and how to avoid them.
In January 2017, The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease released addendum guidelines. Essentially, they followed the lead of the American Academy of Pediatrics who, in 2015, announced that peanut foods should be introduced to infants early. All agree that early introduction of peanut protein in infants between 4-6 months can prevent later peanut allergy.
Food allergies affect about 5 percent of children under 5 years old, and 4 percent of teens and adults. The most common food allergies are to milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and wheat. Most food allergy reactions are mild, but some can be severe and could even lead to a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Just over 1% of children have a peanut allergy, which means that nearly 99% of children can enjoy peanuts without any issue and without endangering those who are allergic. “Introducing peanut foods to infants early is an effective and safe way to reduce the risk of the development of peanut allergies,” says Carina Venter, PhD, RD, at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Peanuts, and peanut-based products, are an important part of good nutrition for people of all ages. They have more protein than any other nut, and are packed with 30 essential vitamins and minerals and contain fiber along with heart-healthy fats.
See your pediatrician for a referral to a board-certified allergist if you suspect a food allergy. It’s estimated that 50-90 percent of self-diagnosed food allergies are wrong. A registered dietitian can help with food selection and meal planning if an allergy is detected.
To start the introduction thin 2 teaspoons of peanut butter with 2-3 teaspoons hot water; cool and serve. Or blend 2 teaspoons of peanut butter into 2-3 tablespoons of foods like infant cereal, applesauce, yogurt or pureed tofu. For more info and recipes go to nationalpeanutboard.org.