“There has been an enormous sea change:” New recommendations for introducing kids to peanuts

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GREENFIELD -- The number of kids diagnosed with a peanut allergy is on the rise. According to experts, it's now roughly one in 100. Peanut allergies can be life-threatening. It leaves many parents wondering, when is the right time to introduce nuts to their children?

Now, the recommendations for that have changed.

For many children, peanut butter is a childhood staple, but for a growing number of families, it's a source of grave concern.

Among them is Jane Narloch.

Narloch gave her son, Vultan, his first taste of peanut butter at age two.

"He got blotchy and he had hives," Narloch recalled. "All of a sudden, my son started to get fussy and was crying and carrying on."

Vultan was diagnosed with a peanut allergy. The diagnosis means he and his parents have to be careful what he eats -- especially outside the house.

Jane Narloch assists her children with homework. Her son, Vultan, has a peanut allergy. Narloch says its been "life-altering" for the entire family.

"It's extremely life-altering," Narloch said.

The recommendations for parents introducing peanuts into their child's diet have changed dramatically over the last decade.

"There has been an enormous sea change in how we treat peanut allergy," explained Dr. Mark Hermanoff, an allergist with Aurora.

Dr. Mark Hermanoff is an allergist with Aurora.

Doctors used to recommend children with a risk of a peanut allergy  -- such as eczema or allergies to other foods -- avoid peanuts until age three or four.

Dr. Hermanoff says that's no longer the case.

"Now, we've realized that the best option is to administer the foods early to prevent the allergy," Hermanoff revealed.

Dr. Hermanoff says new information indicates if a child has no existing risk factors, he or she should try peanut butter for the first time between six months and one year of age.

"Many times parents will take peanut butter and mix it with warm water to make a slurry. Or, they'll give them a snack -- like Bamba -- that contains peanut and giving that on a regular basis may prevent the development of peanut allergy," Dr. Hermanoff said.

If a child is at-risk of a peanut allergy, doctors can conduct a skin test for it.

However, when introducing a child to peanuts be on the lookout for any symptoms of an allergic reaction, which include:

  • Rash around the mouth
  • Hives
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Trouble breathing

"Some children will have vomiting or diarrhea and usually these reactions are going to occur very quick, within minutes of exposure," Dr. Hermanoff explained.

For children whose parents believe they are at risk, there are skin tests that can be administered at the doctor's office first. Or, parents can ask that their child try peanut butter for the first at a regular doctor's appointment.

As for Vultan, he's learning he has to be cautious.

"He's still at the age where he's learning to read food labels and it does affect him," Narloch said.

The peanut guidelines changed because of a two year old study that showed at-risk children given peanut butter a couple times a week were less likely to develop a peanut allergy.

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