New research: Prevent peanut allergies in kids with early exposure

It's a game changer for peanut allergy prevention in the United States. Exposing your child to peanuts earlier could keep the condition away. 

Doctors with the South Bend Clinic say it's a crisis for families everywhere.

"One out of 50 first graders have a peanut allergy," said Christina Barnes M.D. "So it really is an epidemic."

The dangers of peanut allergies are a daily reality for Granger's Julie Jacobs, and her eight-year-old daughter Maggie.

"When I drop her off at school I kiss her and I tell her I love her a bunch of times," said Julie Jacobs. "Because I wonder is this the last time I'll be able to do that."

And it's affected every aspect of Maggie's life, even recess.

"I didn't play on the playground or do much of anything," said Maggie.

But she's persevering. And now this mother and daughter duo are excited to spread the word of positive new findings in allergy research.

In the past, it was recommended you hold off on peanut products for your baby until the age of three. But as the peanut allergies tripled, new studies now encourage cracking open that peanut butter a bit earlier.

"We can catch some children early on, especially those who are high risk, and add that in early," said Dr. Barnes.  "That can save a lifetime of concern, of worry, or cost."

The latest clinical trials say parents can start introducing peanuts into their babies diet as early as 4 months. But it varies, so check with your physician first.

"If there is mild excema, then the doctor may suggest adding peanut in a very certain way starting around six months," said Barnes. "For the rest of the babies out there, those that don't have egg allergy or any excema, peanut can be added."

But remember to never give a baby a whole peanut, or even peanut butter, without baby proofing it. It's a choking hazard. After consulting your physician, Barnes suggests mixing a bit of peanut butter with water. 

"Usually we try just a little bit first and then if the baby has done well, we try more," said Barnes.

"It's really rewarding. And I feel like if one person is helped, it's so worth it," said Jacobs.

Jacobs is very passionate about this issue. She started an education program for area schools where she educates staff on allergies and how to use the Epi-pen. 

If you've got a newborn at home, she encourages you to talk to your physician today about introducing peanut to your child, and hopefully avoiding problems in the future.

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