Peanut allergies and children, doctors changing advice

NOW: Peanut allergies and children, doctors changing advice

For generations, doctors instructed parents to avoid exposing their newborns and young children to peanuts or peanut butter.

The thinking was that delaying exposure would decrease likelihood of developing an allergy.

Now, Dr. Kevin Dahlman, Medical Director of Aurora Children's Health says the exact opposite is true.

"We have now learned from sufficient studies that the earlier the exposure you get to peanuts, the less likely you are to get an allergy." Dr Dahlman tells CBS 58 News. "If your baby has history of wheezing and eczema, we do recommend very early exposure to peanut butter and see what happens."

For those who have already been diagnosed with a peanut allergy, avoidance is best with medication at the ready to offset any allergic reaction to potential exposure.

As many as 6 million U.S. children have food allergies.

An allergy happens when the immune system, your body's defense against germs, has a reaction to a particular food. It can be mild, like an itchy feeling or hives. Sometimes you get severe symptoms -- called anaphylaxis -- like trouble breathing, a swollen tongue, or dizziness.

Food allergy reactions can vary from person to person. Some can be very mild and only involve one part of the body, like hives on the skin. Others can be more severe and involve more than one part of the body. Reactions can happen within a few minutes or up to a few hours after contact with the food.

Here are the symptom:

Skin problems
Hives (red spots that look like mosquito bites)
Itchy skin rashes (eczema, also called atopic dermatitis)

Breathing problems
Throat tightness

Stomach symptoms

Circulation symptoms
Pale skin
Loss of consciousness

Delaying introduction of allergenic foods does not provide protection against food allergy. In fact, feeding peanut foods early and often to babies with egg allergy or eczema dramatically reduces their risk of developing peanut allergy.

The primary way to manage a food allergy is to avoid consuming the food that causes you problems. Carefully check ingredient labels of food products, and learn whether what you need to avoid is known by other names. Children with dairy, wheat, milk and soy allergies outgrow them 90-95 percent of the time. The chance is much lower when it comes to nut allergies. If you suspect your child has a food allergy, definitely talk to your doctor.

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