Children with Food Allergies
Some confusion exists about the proper diagnosis of a food allergy. Dr. JJ Levenstein explains what parents need to know.
Dr. Matthew Greenhawt discusses quality of life
Matthew Greenhawt, M.D., M.B.A., M.S.c, who is board-certified in pediatrics and allergy and immunology and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado School of Medicine., discusses the importance of quality of life when living with a food allergy.
Proper introduction of allergenic foods
Dr. JJ Levenstein discusses the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for proper introduction of potential allergens to a child’s diet.
Food Allergy Tips for Parents
Chef and registered dietitian Garrett Berdan offers tips to parents for creating accommodating environments for their children with food allergies.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I properly introduce peanut products to my child?
In January 2017, the National Institutes of Health published an addendum to the guidelines for the prevention of peanut allergy in the U.S. These guidelines recommend the early introduction of peanut protein in infants starting at between 4-6 months of age depends on risk (low, medium or high) to prevent peanut allergy. They also provide ways to simply introduce peanut protein to babies (through thinned peanut butter, peanut puffs or powdered peanut butter) and recommendations for how frequently infants who are at-risk for peanut allergy should eat peanut foods (at least 3 times per week). If a baby isn’t at risk for peanut allergy, parents can offer peanut foods as often as they would like. As always, parents should discuss specific dietary needs for their child with a pediatrician.
My child has a peanut allergy. What should I be doing to protect them?
Education from a medical professional and having a food allergy management plan are key. The more you, your child and those around you know about allergy, the more you can all do to protect the child. Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT) has valuable resources to help. Also, be sure to check out AllergyEats, a guide to allergy-friendly restaurants across the country.
Can a peanut allergic child be in the same room where peanuts or peanut butter are being consumed?
Research supports that people with peanut allergies are highly unlikely to have serious reactions as the result of casual contact and that simple soap and water cleans surfaces and hands of peanut proteins. The researchers in this study were also unable to detect the airborne allergen.
Another research study looked at how people with peanut allergies would react to peanuts and peanut butter in their environment. Thirty peanut-allergic children who had previously reported having severe reactions to smelling or touching peanut butter were exposed to the smell peanut butter for 10 minutes and there were zero reactions. In the same study, peanut butter was placed on the child’s skin and there were no life-threatening reactions; some experienced redness or irritation where the peanut butter touched the skin.
Ingestion has the potential to cause reactions, some of which could be severe. It is important for people with peanut allergies to use caution to prevent accidental ingestion. Since reactions are unpredictable, every allergic individual should maintain a food allergy action plan to help keep them safe.
You should always consult an allergist if you have concern about a food allergy. Working with an allergist who is familiar with your health history would assist in managing a food allergy risk.
- Simonte, et al. Relevance of casual contact with peanut butter in children with peanut allergy
- Perry, et al. Distribution of Peanuts in the Environment
- Wainstein, et al. Frequency and significance of immediate contact reactions to peanut in peanut-sensitive children
- 2017 Addendum Guidelines for the Prevention of Peanut Allergy in the United States (NIAID): Guidelines for Clinicians and Patients for Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States
Published expert opinions:
- Allergic Living – Advice on reacting to smell of peanut
- FAAN Newsletter – Common Beliefs About Peanut Allergy by Dr. Michael Young
My child is not allergic to peanuts, but others around us may be. What should I do?
More than 99 percent of Americans can enjoy peanuts without any issue, but according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), peanut allergies affect 0.6 percent of us.*
Just as if it were your child with a peanut allergy, educating yourself and those around you is critical. The more you know, the more you can do to ensure peanuts and peanut butter can be consumed safely without endangering someone with an allergy.
Togias A, Cooper SF, Acebal ML, Assa’ad A, Baker J, Beck, LA, et al. Addendum guidelines for the prevention of peanut allergy in the United States: Report of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-sponsored expert panel. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2017:1-8
Is it safe to consume peanut products while pregnant?
Results of a recent study suggest that mothers who eat peanuts and/or peanut butter during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding may lower the likelihood that their child will develop a peanut allergy. In the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) December 2013, researcher A. Lindsay Frazier, MD, ScM and colleagues sought to examine the association between consumption of peanuts and tree nuts during pregnancy and the risk of peanut and/or tree nut allergy in the children.
The participants in the study (10,907 children born between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 1994) were born to women who previously reported their diet during, or shortly before or after, their pregnancy as part of this study. In 2006, each participant (8,513 remaining in the study) reported any physician-diagnosed food allergies, after which a team of physicians independently reviewed each of the reports.
While more research is needed on the correlation between maternal perinatal consumption of peanuts, breastfeeding, and the development of peanut allergy, this study found a lower risk of peanut allergy among the children whose mothers ate peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding. For more information, visit the additional resources page.
Does peanut oil cause an allergic reaction?
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) exempts highly refined peanut oil – typically used for frying – from being labeled as a peanut allergen because the allergenic protein has been removed during the refining process. However, cold-pressed, expelled or extruded peanut oil is still allergenic – usually found as aromatic or gourmet oils. Those with a peanut allergy should always ask for clarification if they are unsure about which oil is being used.
Peanut oil is not an ingredient in any US licensed vaccine listed by the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There is no research that supports a causative relationship between vaccinations and peanut allergies. In fact, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) specifically states on their Vaccination Education Center website that peanut oil, as some people suggest, is not used as a part of vaccinations. The CDC provide excellent information on vaccines at their website, especially regarding their benefits, ingredients, and safety.*