According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s estimated that two percent of American children suffer from an allergy to peanuts. That number has grown significantly in recent years, as the FDA reports that the prevalence of peanut allergies in children more than doubled between 1997 and 2008. Another one of the most common allergies in children is eggs, with 1.3 percent of American children being affected.
With peanut and egg allergies becoming more common, pediatricians in the past recommended that parents hold off on introducing these foods to their children until their older (age one for eggs and age three for peanuts), particularly if the child was at a higher risk for developing food allergies.
However, a recent landmark study by the National Institute of Health found that introducing peanuts to a child at a young age (as early as four months) actually helps reduce their risk for developing a peanut allergy at a later age.
In light of these findings, new guidelines have emerged on introducing peanuts and eggs to young children. Below are our recommended guidelines for introducing these foods to your child:
- If your child is developmentally ready, it is recommended to start introducing peanuts and eggs as early as 4-6 months of age.
- Once introduced and tolerating, you should be offering eggs and peanuts to your child at least 3 times a week on a regular basis.
- Some children with severe eczema or suspected allergies may be referred to an allergy specialist prior to introducing these foods.
Regardless of when you begin introducing your child to peanuts and eggs, here are some safety tips to help guide you:
- Never give a child whole peanuts or chunky peanut butter – it’s a serious choking hazard! Even creamy peanut butter can sometimes be too thick for a baby, so mixing in a little warm water can help make a warm puree that is more easily ingested. Another option is to use peanut powder which can be found with the peanut butter at most grocery stores.
- When introducing egg it is suggested to scramble it up very finely and offer on spoon or mixed into cereal.
- When feeding your baby the peanut butter puree or scrambled egg for the first time, put a small amount on a baby spoon for your child to try, or add it into baby cereal. Wait 10 minutes to see how your child reacts. If there is no allergic reaction, slowly feed your baby the remaining eggs or puree. Continue to watch your child for the next couple of hours to see if there is any reaction.
- If a rash or hives (bumps) develop, your child is having a mild allergic reaction. Call your doctor immediately. Make sure to have Benadryl on hand in case they recommend giving it.
- Vomiting, hives all over the body, swelling of the face or tongue, difficulty breathing, wheezing, repetitive coughing, and sudden tiredness are all signs of a serious allergic reaction and you should call 911 for emergency assistance.
- If your child responds well to your peanut butter or egg test, you can begin offering these foods more routinely.
If you have questions or concerns about introducing peanuts and eggs to your baby’s diet, make sure to voice them to your pediatrician. He or she can help determine what is best for your child based on their risk level. If your child is at a high risk for peanut and egg allergies, your pediatrician may recommend that you take your child to see an allergy specialist to help determine the safest way to introduce these foods.
Dr. Gina Boutwell is a pediatrician at South Shore Medical Center in Kingston and Norwell and is currently accepting new patients. If you’d like to register yourself or a family member as a new patient, call 781-878-5200 or request a call from a new patient registration specialist.