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Understanding Peanut Allergies in Babies

March 08, 2022 4 min read

From peanut butter sandwiches to our favorite Halloween candies, peanuts are a popular snack among children and adults alike. 

But with rising peanut allergy rates, peanuts have been identified as one of the nine most common food allergens in the United States. And due to their prevalence in many foods and ingredient lists, a peanut allergy not only affects your child's nutritional health but can have rippling effects on their quality of life, from living in fear around food to feeling restricted in their daily activities. 

That’s why at SpoonfulONE we’re on a mission to fight these rising rates. Ready to learn more? Here’s what parents need to know about peanut allergies.

How Common Is A Peanut Allergy In Babies?

Peanuts are the most common food allergy in children under age 18 with 2% of children showing symptoms, and the second-most common food allergy in adults overall.

And every year, food allergy rates are increasing. For peanuts, children showing allergy symptoms have more than tripled from 1997 to 2008. The CDC also reports that the prevalence of food allergies in children overall has increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011, with as many as 6 million children in the United States developing some form of food allergy.

What Does A Peanut Allergy Look Like?

Affected by both genetic and environmental factors, a food allergy occurs when your child's immune system decides that a certain food is a "danger" to their health. Their immune system starts sending out immunoglobulin E (or IgE) antibodies that react to the food and cause an allergic reaction. 

A peanut allergy is one of the most common causes of severe allergy attacks, where exposure to even tiny amounts can cause a serious reaction, such as anaphylaxis, that can be life-threatening.

Most food-related allergy symptoms occur within minutes of eating, but allergic reactions can still occur within 2-4 hours of ingestion. Signs that your baby has developed a peanut allergy may include:

  • Stomach distress including vomiting, cramps, indigestion, or diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
  • Repetitive cough, hoarse voice, or tightness in the throat
  • Hives, red skin, or swelling around the face, mouth, or tongue
  • Confusion, dizziness, or loss of consciousness
  • Weak pulse
  • Anaphylaxis

If your child has shown a reaction to peanuts, you should have your pediatrician test for a food allergy. Common testing methods include a skin prick test, IgE testing, and an oral food challenge. 

Long-Lasting Effects Of A Peanut Allergy

A peanut allergy is often lifelong, with only around 20% of children outgrowing this allergy over their lifetime. 

An allergy to peanuts does not necessarily mean an allergy to all tree nuts and seeds. Peanuts are legumes, in the same family as soybeans. However, it is important to be aware that research shows children with one allergy are more likely to develop another food allergy. In fact, one study shows that about 40% of children with a tree nut allergy (such as cashew, walnut, or hazelnut) will also show symptoms of a peanut allergy. 

Other non-nut allergies may also develop, such as to egg or cow’s milk.

Aside from being more likely to develop further food allergies, studies have also shown that children with a food allergy are two to four times as likely to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma or eczema.

How To Manage Peanut Allergies

Peanut products can be found in surprising places, such as natural flavorings, candies, sauces, and cereals.

With the possibility of severe allergic reactions, it is essential to eliminate all sources of peanuts and peanut products from your little one’s diet if they have been diagnosed with this allergy. Even exposure to trace amounts of peanut proteins can cause a serious allergic reaction.

If your child is allergic to peanuts, they will need to avoid all peanuts and peanut products, often found in many common foods such as:

  • Peanut butter and cross-contamination from other nut butters
  • Peanut flour
  • Mixed nuts and trail mix
  • Granola
  • Cereal
  • Sauces, glazes, and marinades
  • Salad dressing
  • Baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and pies
  • Ice cream
  • Nougat
  • African, Asian and Mexican cuisine, where peanuts are commonly used 
  • Peanut oil that is not highly refined

As one of the nine most common allergens, U.S. federal law requires all packaged food products that contain peanut to state that on the ingredient label. However, it is voluntary for a manufacturer to state if there may be potential cross-contamination as tree nuts and peanuts are often produced using the same equipment. Read ingredient labels closely, and pay close attention to phrases such as “may contain peanuts” or “made in a factory that uses nut ingredients.” If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact the manufacturer.

How To Avoid A Peanut Allergy In Babies

We know that no parent wants to see their child suffer from food allergies, but unfortunately, there is no guarantee that they can be avoided. 

However, there is still hope. Groundbreaking clinical studies, like LEAP and EAT, have taught us that babies who were given potentially allergenic foods as a regular part of their diet were less likely to develop a food allergy. 

According to the AAP and the USDA’s latest guidelines, you can (and should!) start introducing allergenic foods, like peanut, to your baby alongside other solids. In fact, experts now consider it safe for your child to start allergen introduction as early as four months, rather than later in life. 

At SpoonfulONE, we believe regular, consistent exposure to common allergens in the diet throughout early childhood is key to staying healthy.