Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. They affect about 1 in every 13 children, and the numbers continue to rise. With the deadly potential of food allergies, many parents keep certain foods away from their young children. But doctors are now recommending that parents give their children peanuts – a highly allergenic food – at just four months old.
Most parents believe that avoiding peanuts and other allergenic foods might help keep their children safe from suffering a dangerous allergic reaction. In the past, doctors have recommended that parents avoid giving their children peanuts until the age of 3. But new research has led pediatricians to believe that avoiding peanuts may in fact have the opposite effect.
Peanut allergies are not as common as other food allergies, but they can provoke dangerous physical reactions. Peanuts are known for causing extreme anaphylactic shock in some people. It can cause the eyes and the throat to swell shut, leading to death in some cases. Rates of peanut allergies have been escalating in recent years, along with sensitivities to other allergenic foods such as tree nuts and fish. It turns out there may be a link between escalating allergy rates and the age-old rule of forbidding peanuts until the age of 3.
New Research On Peanut Allergies
Researchers in the UK set out to test the theory that giving kids peanuts at an earlier age may help reduce the chance of an allergy. They conducted a study on around 600 babies who had severe eczema or an egg allergy, which are known to increase the risk of peanut allergies. They divided them into two groups. One group was given Bamba or smooth peanut peanut butter to eat regularly. The other group was told to stay away from foods containing peanuts. The experiment continued until the children were five years old.
After five years, only 3% of the kids who ate peanut products were allergic to them, while 17% of those who didn’t eat peanuts ended up with an allergy.
Allergies can be compared to vaccinations against disease. Giving kids small portions of allergenic foods at an early age has a similar effect. It teaches the body how to process the food without inciting an allergic reaction.
An allergy stems from the overreaction of the immune system. The real danger isn’t peanuts. It’s the body mistaking peanuts for a poison or a disease. According to the experts at The National Institutes of Health, teaching the body as early as possible to process peanuts in small doses can dramatically lower the overall rate of peanut allergies.
As always, check with your pediatrician to first assess the risk for your own kids, before trying this at home. Everyone’s body is different. Also, make sure your peanut butter is organic and pesticide free.