Can you prevent peanut allergies?
You may have heard in the past not to give peanut products to your baby. But your baby's doctor may now suggest giving peanut products early to help prevent an allergy.
Ask your baby's doctor about when and how to include peanut protein in your baby's diet. It could be as early as when your baby starts solid foods.
If your baby has atopic dermatitis, you may help prevent peanut allergies by introducing peanut products early. Babies at high risk of allergies may need to be at a doctor's office when they try peanut protein.
Is your baby at risk for peanut allergies?
Talk to the doctor about your baby's risk for peanut allergy. The doctor may also test your baby for a peanut allergy.
Your child may be at high risk if:
- He or she has severe eczema or an egg or other food allergy.
- Anyone in your family has peanut allergies.
Your child may be at moderate risk if he or she has mild to moderate eczema.
You child may be at low risk if he or she has no eczema or other food allergies.
How can you introduce peanuts to your baby's diet?
If your baby has a high risk of peanut allergies, ask your doctor if you can give peanut products in a safe way. This may be done as early as 4 to 6 months, or soon after your baby starts to eat other solid foods. You will most likely work with an allergist to try feeding a peanut product at the doctor's office.
If your baby has a moderate risk, you may want to try feeding peanut products at around 6 months.
If your baby is at low risk, you can feed peanut products as you like, after your baby starts to eat solid foods.
If you plan to introduce peanut products, find a time when you can be with your baby for at least 2 hours. This gives you time to watch for allergic reactions. Give your baby just a small bite first. Then wait 10 minutes. If that goes well, then feed the rest.
For the first feedings, you might try:
- A teaspoon or two of smooth peanut butter mixed with warm water, milk, or fruit. Let it cool before you feed it to your baby.
- Baby snacks that contain peanut. One example is Bamba. Start with 20 pieces. (If your baby is less than 7 months old, mix the Bamba with a small amount of water, breast milk, or formula to make it soft.)
- Ground peanuts mixed into yogurt or applesauce.
- Peanut soup.
- Other peanut foods that your family likes.
Avoid whole peanuts for children under 4. Small children can choke on whole peanuts.
If your baby has no allergic reactions, give a similar amount a few times a week.
What are the risks?
Peanut products can cause a very serious allergic reaction in some children. A mild reaction may include a few raised, red, itchy patches of skin (hives). A severe reaction may cause hives all over, swelling in the throat, trouble breathing, nausea or vomiting, or fainting. It can be deadly.
When should you call for help?
Give an epinephrine shot if:
- You think your child is having a severe allergic reaction.
After you give an epinephrine shot, call 911, even if your child feels better.
Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- Your child has symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These may include:
- Sudden raised, red areas (hives) all over his or her body.
- Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.
- Trouble breathing.
- Passing out (losing consciousness). Or your child may feel very light-headed or suddenly feel weak, confused, or restless.
- Your child has been given an epinephrine shot, even if your child feels better.
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your child has symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
- A rash or hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
- Belly pain, nausea, or vomiting.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
- Your child does not get better as expected.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter P118 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Introducing Peanuts to Your Baby to Reduce Allergy Risk".
Current as of: April 14, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Heather Quinn MD - Family Medicine & Thomas Emmett Francoeur MD MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics