In the U.S. it has become commonplace to see food allergy warnings on virtually every food package or restaurant menu. Throughout the nation peanut allergies alone have more than tripled between 1997 and 2008, but the rising occurrence of food allergies is not the same everywhere in the world.
Take Israel, for example, where peanut allergies in children are virtually unheard of. A recent article discusses that the meaning behind this may be linked to a popular snack food that parents feed their babies and young children called Bamba, which is described as peanut-flavored puffs, similar to the texture of Cheetos.
Over the course of the past few years, there has been multiple studies where evidence suggests early introduction to peanuts (or other common food allergens) may actually reduce a child’s risk of developing a food allergy. This could explain why Israeli children, who eat the popular peanut snack food form an early age, don’t have peanut allergies. This type of thinking, however, is much different than previous recommendations, which encouraged parents to hold off introducing peanuts and products containing peanut to their children until they reached at least one-year-old.
The article explains that introducing potentially allergic foods to children at a young age may allow their bodies time to recognize the food for what it is. If certain foods are withheld or not introduced until later in life, the body can interpret them as dangerous invaders — triggering an allergic reaction.
Based on the studies that favored early peanut introduction, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) changed their recommendations in 2015 for when to introduce peanuts to children. The new guidelines recommend introducing them between four and 11 months, even in high risk kids.
The article explains however, that doesn’t mean you should give your baby a spoonful of peanut butter and walk away, though. While early introduction may prevent an allergy, it’s not a 100% guarantee and research on the matter is ongoing.
The APA provides some guidelines for how to introduce peanuts to kids, especially high risk kids. First and foremost, they recommend talking to a pediatrician regarding food allergies and watching your child closely after giving them food containing peanuts or other potentially allergic ingredients.
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