Should You Feed Your Baby Peanuts to Prevent Allergies?

Early consumption may make all the difference

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Peanuts definitely get a bad reputation these days, as more and more children are diagnosed with life-threatening allergies, but a new study has revealed that giving babies peanuts early on in life may help prevent those dangerous allergies. 

Allergies are certainly not something to be taken lightly, but the steep rise in how many children are diagnosed with allergies has been puzzling and troubling parents and health officials alike. The Food Allergy Research and Education organization explains that the number of children living with peanut allergy appears to have tripled between 1997 and 2008 alone in the United States. Of course, like with a lot of health disorders, it's not always entirely clear if the number of kids with allergies has actually risen or if we're just better at diagnosing food allergies now, but either way, more food allergies are part of our everyday lives now. Peanut allergies have especially increased in Western countries but are now showing up in other parts of the world, such as in Asia and Africa.

Why Food Allergies are So Dangerous

And food allergies aren't just sensitivities – they cause serious health problems. Not only do children with food allergies tend to have other health problems, such as other food allergies or asthma, but the more a child with allergies is exposed to whatever he or she is allergic to, the worse the body can react. Peanut allergies, in particular, are one of the most dangerous allergies for children and babies, because it's usually an allergy that kids don't grow out of and it can be life-threatening. 

How to Prevent Peanut Allergies in Babies

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that if a parent has a food allergy, that they then wait to introduce that allergen to their babies, especially with allergies such as cow's milk or egg allergies. But there are no restrictions once the baby is ready to start solid foods, around 4 to 6 months. 

And now, a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that surprisingly enough, giving peanuts to babies who are least 4 months old might actually help prevent peanut allergies from forming. 

For the study, researchers gave babies who were all between the ages of 4 and 11 months and were already prone to having allergies because they all had either severe eczema and/or an egg allergy peanut products. The study actually gave all the babies a skin test to see if they displayed signs for peanut allergies – if they tested negative, they were fed a higher dose of peanut protein, and if they displayed a positive skin test, they were given smaller doses that were gradually increased. All of the babies received peanut products until they reached 60 months of age and were continually tested for a peanut allergy reaction. 

Interestingly enough, the study ultimately found that all of the babies who ate the peanut product – both those who tested negative and those who showed a high sign of being allergic – both had lowered rates of peanut allergies later. Even if the babies had the peanut products early in life and then stopped eating them completely, their risk of getting a peanut allergy was lower. 

The product that was used in the study is called Bamba and actually looks like a peanut "puff." Babies that didn't like the Bamba just got good old peanut butter. And hey, maybe either product would be worth a shot if it can help your baby avoid a peanut allergy. But as always, be sure to talk to your baby's doctor or pediatrician before introducing any food to prevent allergies, especially if your baby is already at risk. 

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