Here’s How To Reduce A Kid’s Risk For Developing A Peanut Allergy

Could keeping peanuts away from our kids actually be making them allergic?

March 1, 2017
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We all know that peanut allergies are common—it’s evident from the food allergy warnings on virtually every food product we have. It’s easy to think that any food allergy just occurs naturally, but that might not actually be the case. Believe it or not, keeping kids away from peanuts when they’re young is the very thing that could be giving them a peanut allergy later on in life.

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With all of the peanut-allergy horror stories out there, many parents are hesitant to give their children peanut products even when they’re at the proper age. We’ve been told for decades to keep nuts of any kids away from kids less than a year old though many parents take the suggestion even further, some stashing away the peanut butter until their kids are 5 years old or more. Did you know, however, that keeping peanut products away from your kids is exactly what could make them develop an allergy?

A recent study done by the Immune Tolerance Network called Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) is now encouraging parents to begin introducing peanut products to kids before they turn a year old. Why?

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Currently it is estimated that 2 percent of American children have a peanut allergy and, although that doesn’t sound like a huge number, it was only at 0.4 percent 20 years ago in 1997.

In fact, a peanut allergy is one of the most common allergies in the United States, and it can often be responsible for life-threatening reactions. It’s even become so common that some airlines will refuse to serve bags of peanuts as in-flight snacks if there is a passenger on board with a severe peanut allergy.

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While it might seem like a slight inconvenience at first, you may want to consider that even contact with the dust from peanuts could send someone with an allergy into anaphylactic shock.

That’s right—someone who’s allergic wouldn’t even have to touch an actual peanut to have a reaction. They could be triggered by a food that came into contact with peanuts during processing, even if it doesn’t contain them, or just by walking by a bag of peanuts at a ballgame. 

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It’s not uncommon for those with peanut allergies to be allergic to tree nuts as well, including:

  • – Pecans

  • – Almonds

  • – Walnuts

  • – Pistachios

  • – Pine nuts

  • – Hazelnuts

  • – Macadamia nuts
  • When you compare the United States to other countries, it’s easy to see that we encourage parents to wait much longer before introducing their children to peanut products due to fear of an allergic reaction.

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    It’s actually become such a serious issue that many schools have actually banned anyone from bringing anything that contains peanuts through their doors.

    In countries like Israel, however, the majority of kids start eating peanuts by the time they are a year old, most often in the form of Bamba, a cheese puff-esque snack made from crushed peanuts.

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    The LEAP study was done to see if there was any connection between keeping peanut products away from young kids and their risk of developing an allergy. The study involved more than 600 kids and went on until they were six years old.

    The result? Introducing peanuts into a child’s diet earlier on can reduce their risk for developing a peanut allergy by up to 80 percent.

    For any parents rushing to the pantry to get their kid a spoonful of peanut butter, there’s more to it than just giving a child some peanuts and hoping for the best. It’s important to note that how you introduce peanuts into your child’s diet is almost as important as when you do it.

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    Raw, whole peanuts should never be given to young children, as they pose a very strong choking hazard for kids without teeth or those who don’t chew well. Instead, start them out with a puffed peanut snack or toast with peanut butter.

    The recommendations out there for giving peanut products to kids are based on how likely a child is to develop allergies.

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    Believe it or not, an egg allergy is one of the most common food allergies in kids that can indicate susceptibility to other food allergies or sensitivities. Asthma and eczema can also indicate that a child may be more likely to develop allergies.

    Before you give your child peanuts, consider which category they fall into:

  • – Kids with asthma, severe eczema, or egg allergies: This group of children is at the highest risk of developing a peanut allergy. Parents of children who fall into this category should consult an allergist or doctor before introducing their kids to peanut products so they can perform tests to see if there will be a reaction.
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  • – Kids with moderate eczema, but no asthma or allergies:
  • Children in this category will be less likely to develop a peanut allergy, but it is still recommended to wait until they are at least six months old to give them peanut products.

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    – Kids with no asthma, no eczema, no food allergies, and no family history of food allergies: According to LEAP, children in the category can begin to consume peanut products at any age. If the child has a small reaction, keep nuts out of their diet for six months then try again.

    How can you tell if a reaction is mild or severe? In many cases, the symptoms can be the same, just much more pronounced for someone having a stronger reaction.

  • For someone with a mild peanut allergy, they might experience a runny nose, hives or skin redness, slight itching in the throat, and mild digestive issues upon consuming peanut products.
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  • Anyone with a severe peanut allergy may also experience the symptoms above in addition to a tight feeling in their throat, and wheezing or breathing difficulties.

  • Anaphylaxis is the most severe type of allergic reaction someone can have, and peanut allergies are the most common food-related cause of this life-threatening condition. Its symptoms include:

  • – Airway constriction
  • – Swelling in the throat that can prevent breathing
  • – Severe low blood pressure
  • – Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • – Losing consciousness
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    It’s important to seek emergency medical treatment for anyone experiencing anaphylaxis, regardless of if it’s caused by peanuts or not.

    You might be surprised to learn how many different products contain peanuts in some form another. Many of them are pretty common household items, including bakery items, cereal, granola, energy bars, and bread.

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    There are also a lot of items you might not expect to contain peanuts, like salad dressing, chocolate-based candy, almond butter or other nut butters, and even pet food.

    For anyone who’s allergic to both peanuts and other tree nuts, you might feel pretty hopeless when it comes to finding something that can come close to peanuts when it comes to either texture or flavor. Fear not, though, because there are plenty of alternatives out there to try out.

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  • – Sunflower butter is a popular option that has become easier and easier to find throughout the years. It’s got a similar flavor and texture to peanut butter, and you can usually them in the same aisle.
  • – Cookie butter might not be the healthiest alternative to peanut butter, but it’s delicious in its own right and definitely has the same smooth texture.
  • – If you like coconut, you’ll want to give coconut butter a try. It’s made from ground coconut and has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor.
  • If you have a known peanut allergy, it’s important to take certain steps to make sure you don’t expose yourself to peanuts accidentally. The bright side is that it isn’t uncommon for people to grow out of peanut allergies, but don’t assume this will happen to you—always check with an allergist before you try to reintroduce peanuts into your diet.

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    If you find yourself stuck with your allergy, though, take these steps to avoid contact with peanuts:

  • If you’re unsure if something contains peanuts, always assume it does to stay safe. It may seem silly, but a teenaged boy once died after eating chili at a restaurant that had been thickened using peanut butter.

  • If a food label says that product was made in an environment where peanuts were also processed, don’t ignore it. It could contain only trace amounts of peanuts and still be enough to make you ill.
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  • Make sure you are always prepared in case you do have a reaction. Ask your doctor if you’re someone who should carry an EpiPen, and make sure anyone you’re with knows what to do in case you need it.
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