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.