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How to Give Babies Peanut-Based Foods to Cut Allergy Risk

New U.S. and Canadian guidelines encourage you to introduce babies safely to peanut-based foods by six months to reduce the risk of developing a peanut allergy. Some of the guidelines as outlined by CBC are:

Parents and caregivers should avoid feeding whole peanuts to infants because they pose a choking hazard. Instead, peanut butter, peanut flour or the peanut-flavoured puff snack Bamba can be used.

  • Try watered-down peanut butter: Mix two teaspoons of smooth peanut butter with two to three teaspoons of hot water, and let cool.
  • Mix two teaspoons of smooth peanut butter with two to three tablespoons of a favourite puréed fruit or vegetable.
  • Mix two teaspoons of peanut flour with about two tablespoons of a favourite puréed fruit or vegetable.

For most children, those at low to moderate risk, the first feeding can be done at home.

Parents should give a small portion, then wait 10 minutes, and if there's no reaction then give the rest. They should keep watching for later reactions.

Infants are considered high risk if they are allergic to eggs, have severe eczema or both. If at high risk, parents should ask a doctor on how to proceed. The physician may want to do a test first and offer the first taste during the four-month office visit.

Food allergies were a rarity just 40 or 50 years ago, but today an estimated 1 out of every 13 children has a food allergy — and the incidence is increasing. From 1997 to 2007 alone, food allergies increased 18 percent among children under 18 years in the U.S. Unfortunately, food allergies can be especially difficult to detect in younger children who are unable to communicate their symptoms, such as unexplained crying, diarrhea or rash.

Often, the allergy is to a very commonly eaten food. In the U.S., eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions, including: peanuts, fish, soy, milk, tree nuts, shellfish, wheat and eggs. While studies are ongoing, it’s good news that many of these allergies can be fought with gradual introduction of the allergenic substance to your or your child’s diet. Of course, this should always be done under the supervision of a physician, to avoid a possible fatal reaction.

There is no complete answer for why certain people have allergies, although both genetic and environmental factors likely play a role. For example, it’s been found that genetic engineering of food seeds can increase existing allergens, or produce new, unknown allergens. Both appear to have happened in genetically modified (GM) soy, which is found in the majority of processed foods.