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So peanut allergies can be one of parents' biggest worries. And we've known for a few years that feeding babies food that contains a small amount of peanuts can actually reduce their chances of becoming allergic. Even so, many parents are scared to do that. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology is currently discussing proposed guidelines to help them try it. Here's NPR's Patti Neighmond.
PATRICIA NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: The guidelines won't be officially released by the government until early next year. But when they are, they'll show parents how to safely introduce peanut products into their baby's diet to prevent allergies from developing. First off, parents will need to know if their child is at high risk for a peanut allergy. These are children with severe eczema, dry, itchy skin and rashes and those who are allergic to eggs. Immunologist Amal Assa'ad, who helped write the new guidelines, says as many as one-third of these children will develop a peanut allergy.
AMAL ASSA'AD: They target this group of vulnerable children. They give them a way to prevent them from developing the peanut allergy that they were destined to have.
NEIGHMOND: The prevention guidelines are based on dramatic findings from a large study where high-risk infants were fed a liquidy peanut butter puree three times a week.
ASSA'AD: After five years, those who were fed this were found to have much less peanut allergy than those infants who were - totally avoided peanuts until 5 years of age.
NEIGHMOND: Feeding pureed peanuts actually reduced the risk of allergy by 80 percent. So how do you do it? The first guideline is, if your child is high-risk, check with your pediatrician or allergist first. Initial peanut butter feedings may have to be done in their office so the child can be carefully monitored. But for all other children, it can be done at home at around 6 months old, after the child has started to eat solid food.
RUCHI GUPTA: Now, it's very important not to introduce whole peanuts. And I want to make that very clear because that is a choking hazard.
NEIGHMOND: Researcher and pediatrician Ruchi Gupta says even plain peanut butter, which is thick and sticky, can be a choking hazard.
GUPTA: So the easiest way is to take two teaspoons of peanut butter and mix it with some hot water and make a puree out of it.
NEIGHMOND: Take a tiny bit, put it on the tip of a teaspoon, feed it to your child, and then wait and watch for 10 minutes.
GUPTA: If they're doing OK, then slowly feed it to them over the course of 30 to 40 minutes. And if they are comfortable, then that's excellent.
NEIGHMOND: Watch your child for two more hours. And if there's no allergic reaction, Gupta says it's fine to introduce peanut products in their regular diet. Patti Neighmond, NPR News.
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