New national guidelines say parents can protect their children from becoming allergic to peanuts by feeding them peanut-containing foods as early as 4 to 6 months of age.
What's on the menu for kids that young? Some tips:
—If your baby has severe eczema, a kind of skin rash, or is allergic to eggs, ask your doctor first — but don't put it off. These babies are at high risk for developing peanut allergy and have the recommended earliest exposure, at 4 to 6 months. They may get a test first to be sure it's safe and that they're not already allergic. Some may get a first taste in the doctor's office while some parents may be told it's OK to introduce the foods at home.
—For other babies — those at low risk of allergy, or those at moderate risk because of mild eczema — parents can introduce peanut-based foods at home around 6 months like they introduce other solid foods.
—Once you successfully introduce peanut-based foods, feed them regularly, about three times a week during childhood.
WATCH FOR CHOKING HAZARDS
—Your baby should eat other solid foods first, to be sure he or she is developmentally ready.
—No whole peanuts or big globs of peanut butter on a spoon or in a lump, or chunky peanut butter.
—Try watered-down peanut butter: Mix 2 teaspoons of smooth peanut butter with 2 to 3 teaspoons of hot water, and let cool.
—Try the peanut-flavored puff snack Bamba, used in a study of peanut allergy prevention. For babies under 7 months, soften with 4 to 6 teaspoons of water.
—Mix 2 teaspoons of smooth peanut butter with 2 to 3 Tablespoons of a favorite pureed fruit or vegetable.
—Mix 2 teaspoons of peanut flour with about 2 Tablespoons of a favorite pureed fruit or vegetable.
FIRST FEEDING AT HOME
—Don't introduce peanut-based foods, or any other food that might trigger allergy symptoms, when he or she has a cold or other illness that might be mistaken for a reaction.
—Give the first feeding at home, not at day care or a restaurant.
—Offer a small portion of one of the food options, wait 10 minutes and, if there's no reaction, give the rest while still observing for later reactions.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
—Mild symptoms can include a rash or a few hives around the mouth or face.
—Severe reactions that need immediate medical care can include widespread hives, swelling of the lips, face or tongue, wheezing or difficulty breathing, repetitive coughing, or becoming tired or limp.