FAQs for Parents2023-11-28T20:15:28+00:00

FAQs for Parents

Food Allergy Prevention FAQs for Parents

Here are simple answers to many of the common questions we get asked about food allergy prevention.

Food Allergy Prevention FAQs for Parents

Should a pregnant or breastfeeding mom avoid eating food allergens?2023-06-01T17:48:42+00:00

Doctors and researchers do not believe that eating food allergens during pregnancy or while breastfeeding will increase or decrease a baby’s risk of food allergy. Therefore, pregnant and breastfeeding moms should focus on eating healthy foods.  

Does breastfeeding have an impact on whether my baby develops a food allergy?2023-06-01T17:48:15+00:00

Although breastfeeding has many benefits for both mother and baby, we do not know if breastfeeding alone can reduce your baby’s risk of food allergy. This is why early introduction of infant-safe peanut foods and other top allergen foods is recommended.  

What is the best age to start feeding food allergens to my baby?2023-11-28T16:36:29+00:00

Every baby is different, but many babies are ready to eat solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age. We know that earlier is better for preventing food allergies.  

So, as long as your baby is ready to safely eat solid foods, you can start feeding your baby infant safe forms of peanut foods and other top allergen foods as early as 4 months of age.  

For the best chance at preventing a food allergy, foods should be introduced before your baby is 6 months old. And remember, you need to keep feeding these foods to your baby weekly. Once is not enough.  

What are the recommendations for early introduction of other common allergen foods besides peanut?2023-11-28T16:37:42+00:00

According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, top allergen foods should be started when you start feeding your baby other complementary foods. This is often around 6 months of age. 

Infant-safe forms of these top allergen foods are part of a healthy and diverse diet. 

Once your baby starts eating solid foods, try introducing these top allergen foods one at a time and watch for any reaction.In the United States the top allergen foods to introduce include peanut, egg, milk products (not whole milk), tree nuts, soy, sesame, fish, shellfish, and wheat.  

Examples of infant-safe foods containing top food allergen foods include:  

  • Smashed tofu or soy yogurt 
  • Whole unsweetened cow’s milk yogurt 
  • Thinned nut butter (ex: cashew or almond) 
  • Well-cooked egg  
  • Tahini (sesame paste) mixed into a puree 
  • Wheat infant cereal or softly cooked wheat pasta
What is the evidence that early introduction can help prevent peanut allergy?2023-11-28T16:38:35+00:00

The best research comes from a study of more than 600 babies. These babies had severe eczema, an egg allergy, or both, which made them more likely to have a peanut allergy in the future. The study was called the Learn Early About Peanut Allergy, or LEAP, study.  

Babies in the LEAP study were split into two groups. Group 1 was given peanut-containing foods early when they were infants, starting between 4 months and 11 months of age.  This group was given peanut foods every week. Group 2 got no peanut-containing foods at all.  

Once the children reached age 5, they were tested for peanut allergy. Here is what the researchers found: 

  •  3 in 100 babies who ATE PEANUTS developed a peanut allergy. 
  • 17 in 100 babies who DID NOT EAT PEANUTS developed a peanut allergy. 

This means that feeding these babies peanuts reduced their chance of developing a peanut allergy by more than 80 percent. 

How often do I need to feed peanut foods to my baby to help prevent food allergy?2023-11-28T16:48:27+00:00

Researchers are still debating the best schedule for feeding peanut foods. But we do know that once is not enough.  

It is important to continue to feed peanut foods 2 or 3 times a week once you start. 

What are infant-safe peanut foods?2023-11-28T16:49:08+00:00

Creamy peanut butter and peanut powder, if prepared correctly, are excellent infant-safe peanut foods!  

If using peanut butter, you MUST always thin it first. Stir 2 teaspoons of creamy peanut butter into either pureed food or 2-3 teaspoons of water, breast milk or infant formula.  

If using peanut powder, stir 2 teaspoons of powder into a pureed food. You can also moisten the powder with a small amount of water, breast milk, or formula.  

Remember, never feed your baby whole peanuts, chunky peanut butter, or peanut butter straight from the jar. These are choking hazards. 

For more tips on feeding peanut-containing foods to your baby, see the handout created by the US National Institutes of Health: Instructions for Home Feeding of Peanut Protein for Infants at Low Risk of an Allergic Reaction to Peanut. 

My baby has never had peanut foods before. How should I start?2023-11-28T16:49:49+00:00

Once your baby has safely eaten other solid or pureed foods, feeding infant-safe peanut-containing foods is a good idea. But peanut should NOT be your baby’s first solid food. 

Start by picking a time when your baby is healthy and can have your full attention for at least 2 hours. This will let you watch for an allergic reaction.  

Prepare an infant-safe peanut food and offer your baby a small amount on the end of a baby spoon. Creamy peanut butter mixed with breast milk, formula, or water is a good place to start.  

After your baby has tried the peanut food, wait 10 minutes and watch for an allergic reaction. If your baby doesn’t have any symptoms of an allergic reaction after 10 minutes, offer your baby the rest of the peanut-containing food. In rare cases reactions can happen up to 2 hours after eating peanuts, so keep an eye on your baby. That’s it! 

How do I know if my baby will have food allergies?2023-11-28T16:50:27+00:00

All babies have some risk of developing a food allergy. And there is no way to tell for sure whether or not your baby will develop a food allergy. About 1 in 13 children in the United States will develop a food allergy. 

If your baby has severe eczema this increases the chance of developing a food allergy. So, it is even more important to take early steps to prevent peanut allergy and other food allergies. If your baby has severe eczema speak with your baby’s doctor before giving your baby top allergen foods, which in the United States are peanut, egg, milk, tree nuts, soy, sesame, fish, shellfish, and wheat.  

 

What is eczema?2023-11-28T16:50:55+00:00

Eczema is a term for several different types of skin swelling and irritation. Doctors often refer to eczema as dermatitis or atopic dermatitis.  

Most types of eczema cause dry, itchy skin and rashes. Eczema can be on the face, inside the elbows, behind the knees, and on the hands and feet.  

Scratching the skin can cause it to turn red, and to swell and itch even more. 

If my baby has severe eczema or an egg allergy, can I still take steps to help prevent a peanut allergy?2023-11-28T16:51:26+00:00

Yes! But speak with your baby’s healthcare provider first. 

If a baby’s doctor or other provider has told you your baby has severe eczema, or you know your baby has an egg allergy, then giving infant-safe peanut foods early, between ages 4 and 6 months, is even more important.  

Before you give peanut-containing foods to your baby the doctor may want to run some allergy tests or refer you to an allergy specialist. The doctor may also suggest that you give peanut foods in the office the first time.  

Keep in mind, if your baby has only mild or moderate eczema, then it is safe to give peanut-containing foods when your baby is ready for solid food. You don’t need to talk with the doctor first. 

 

Is feeding my baby peanut foods safe?2023-11-28T16:53:00+00:00

Yes! If your baby is ready to start eating solid foods and does not have severe eczema or an allergy to eggs, giving infant-safe peanut-containing foods is safe. If your baby has severe eczema talk with your baby’s doctor before giving peanut foods 

Eating infant-safe peanut foods to help prevent peanut allergy works best when your baby starts peanut foods early. Babies can be ready as early 4 to 6 months of age, after other solid or pureed foods have been introduced. 

SAFETY ALERT: Whole peanuts and peanut butter straight from the jar are choking hazards and not safe. To make peanut butter safe for your baby you must first mix it with breast milk, formula, or water to thin it out. 

How can I help prevent peanut allergy in my baby?2023-11-28T16:52:56+00:00

You can help prevent peanut allergy in your baby by feeding them infant-safe peanut foods when they are ready to start eating solid foods. This is typically between 4 and 6 months of age. Experts call this approach early allergen introduction, or “early introduction” for short.  

Giving your infant peanut-containing foods early, and continuing to feed these foods several times a week, reduces the chance of your baby developing a peanut allergy by as much as 80%.  

The National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, recommends early introduction of peanuts. Learn more about the Addendum Guidelines for Prevention of Peanut Allergy. 

Why are food allergies important to know about?2023-11-28T16:52:50+00:00

In some people, a food allergy can trigger a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis (a·nuh·fuh·LAK·suhs). This can cause life-threatening symptoms that make it hard to breath.  

Some of the symptoms of anaphylaxis you might see in a baby include: 

  • Swelling of the lips, face or tongue 
  • Widespread hives over the body 
  • Wheezing 
  • Repeated coughing 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Swelling of the throat 
  • Skin color changing to pale or blue 
  • Sudden tiredness or lethargy 
  • Seeming limp 
What are the symptoms of a food allergy?2023-11-28T19:54:11+00:00

The first symptoms of the food allergy reaction usually appear within a few minutes to 2 hours after eating or touching a food.  

Symptoms can range from mild to severe or even life-threatening.  

You might see only one symptom, or you might see several symptoms at the same time.  

If you have any concerns about your baby’s response to a new food, seek medical attention or call 911 right away. 

 Mild symptoms can include: 

  • Rash or a few hives around the mouth or face. (Hives are red, itchy bumps on the skin.) 
  • Runny nose, sneezing 
  • Mild upset stomach 

 Severe symptoms can include: 

  • Swelling of the lips, face or tongue 
  • Vomiting (throwing up) 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Widespread hives over the body 
  • Wheezing 
  • Repeated coughing 
  • Difficulty breathing; swelling of the throat 
  • Skin color changing to pale or blue 
  • Sudden tiredness or lethargy 
  • Seeming limp 

 For more information on food allergy symptoms, see the handout Is My Baby Having a Food Allergy Reaction?.

What is a food allergy?2023-11-28T17:02:00+00:00

A food allergy happens when your immune system reacts to a food protein because it has mistaken that protein as a threat. Your body’s response is what we call an allergic reaction.

It is the protein in these foods that triggers an allergic reaction. The proteins found in peanuts or eggs are examples of common food allergens. 

What is an allergen?2023-11-28T17:02:32+00:00

An allergen is a substance that can cause an allergic reaction. In some people, their immune system sees this allergen as dangerous. As a result, your immune system reacts by defending against the allergen. 

Allergens can come from many things, including: 

  • Food proteins 
  • Pollen from plants 
  • Dander from pets 
  • Ingredients in some medications 

In the United States, the top food allergens are proteins found in peanut, egg, milk, tree nuts, soy, sesame, fish, shellfish, and wheat.   

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