Can peanut allergies be prevented?

There is no vaccine or diet to guarantee your baby will not develop a peanut allergy – or any other allergy for that matter. However, there are steps you can take which may delay or lessen the onset of a food allergy.

Breast-feeding

Breast-feeding your baby exclusively for the first four to six months may help to cut the risk of developing allergies. Admittedly, the evidence is mixed. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breast-feeding for six months. Their studies and anecdotal evidence seem to indicate that a baby breastfed longer has a healthier outcome – including fewer allergies. If you eat peanuts while breast-feeding, your breastmilk will contain small amounts of the peanut protein. There is no evidence, however, that this increases your baby's risk of developing a peanut allergy.

Early Introduction

Some research suggests that introducing peanuts early as a weaning food may prevent an allergy from developing, but it is far from conclusive. Children from peanut-eating cultures seem to be protected from the allergy. There is still no clear evidence that peanuts in the diet help or hurt. If you want to introduce peanuts to your infant's diet, wait until the baby is 6 months old and start with a very small amount.

Exercise Caution

Always speak to your pediatrician about the introduction of peanuts. The list of allergies is growing, and your doctor may have new research available to help you make dietary decisions. If your baby is showing signs of eczema or seems to have other food sensitivities, you will need to talk to you doctor. Also, if your family has a history of peanut allergy, asthma, eczema or environmental allergy like hayfever, proceed with caution. A genetic predisposition may indicate vulnerability to other allergies, including peanut.

Source: Adam Fox, consultant pediatric allergist at BabyCentre

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