At what age should a child be introduced to peanuts and other nuts? My daughter hasn't tried peanuts or peanut butter yet. While there's no history of allergy to nuts in our family, we've been playing it safe. She's 3 now. Are peanuts OK at that age or should we wait longer? Any precautions we should take?
asked 09 Dec '09, 02:57
Chris W. Rea
My son is allergic to peanuts. We waited until he was two to try offering peanut butter to him and he reacted the first time. We don't have any nut allergies in either family, but I am allergic to fish and seafood.
There seems to be much disparity regarding the "when" question. When we saw an allergist, he told us that the latest thinking is that children should be exposed to nuts after one year, waiting longer does not make a difference. I can't offer a source for this though, he only mentioned it because I asked when we should introduce our younger daughter to peanuts. You might want to consult your doctor, or get a referral to an allergist for testing if you are really concerned. Though this might be difficult with no history of allergy.
Regarding precautions, the most important is - do you recognize the signs of anaphylaxis? epipen.ca has a pretty good list. Otherwise, know where the closest emergency room is, you might want to make sure that you access to a children's antihistamine (we use liquid benadryl) or if possible, someone with a children's epipen, which is a smaller dose than the adult one.
If you are concerned, you can try to rub a small amount of peanut butter on her back (where she can't reach it), if the skin reacts she is likely allergic.
answered 09 Dec '09, 03:51
I had heard somewhere (either from another mother, or maybe it was What to Expect the First Year) that it is recommended to wait at least 2 years of age. This reference from about.com suggests waiting until your toddler is 3 years unless you have a family history of peanut allergies.
In our case, our daughter had small amounts of smooth peanut butter on toast before her first year. There are no nut allergies in our family, I happily ate peanut butter when pregnant. I believe (again not a clear reference but based on my understanding of human physiology from university courses) that part of the reason there are so many peanut allergies is that children are not exposed to them thus do not develop appropriate antibodies. That is why allergies are treated by giving the individual shots that expose them to their allergens.
There is a recent study where exposure to peanut oil was used to treat a peanut allergy.
answered 09 Dec '09, 03:31
The Mayo Clinic says:
To help prevent food allergies, parents were once encouraged to avoid feeding young children eggs, fish and peanut butter. Today, however, researchers say there's no convincing evidence that avoiding these foods during early childhood will help prevent food allergies. Still, it's a good idea to check with your baby's doctor or dietitian if any close relatives have a food allergy. And remember that peanut butter poses a choking hazard for babies.
Dr. Mike from Pediacast also did a segment of peanut allergies in two different podcasts: Episoide 30 and Episoide 63. I remember him saying current thinking isn't that introducing it too early will cause an allergy. However, if the child does have a severe reaction, they are more likely to survive it when they are older. Also, he pointed out that it is a good idea to introduce peanuts when one is near a hospital (i.e. not out backpacking :) ).
answered 09 Dec '09, 04:30
This article from Harper's Magazine in 2008 is pretty interesting. While peanut allergies can be very severe in some people, it's apparently fewer than the hype might make you think (and much less harmful to "bystanders" than some people believe). Particularly for people without family history of food allergies, it may not do much good to delay nut exposure, though as Kiesa points out it may be helpful to wait until they are not so tiny as to be hard to resuscitate in the rare event that they have a bad reaction.
answered 09 Dec '09, 20:10