Life-threatening allergies affect millions of children in the U.S., sending many to the emergency room each year. The only way to avoid an allergic reaction is to avoid the allergen, but – particularly with younger children – this is often easier said than done.

Now, parents of kids with allergies have a new tool to keep their children safe. Colorado’s Angel Service Dogs has begun training puppies to sniff out potentially life-threatening allergies and steer kids clear of them. AsColorado Connectionreports, the dogs they raise aren’t just trained basic commands. They can also be trained to sniff out any of a variety of allergens, such as peanuts.

During training, peanuts are placed in a container, and then hidden. The puppy raiser then trains the dog to sniff out the peanuts, and then to sit next to the container to alert the owner to its presence. The training process takes about a year, after which the dogs graduate and are sent to live with children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening allergy.

So far, Angel Service Dogs has placed nearly 30 allergy alert dogs, with another 20 that will be ready this year. Anna Salas, who has raised several allergy alert dogs, says one of her dogs went to a family with a young daughter who has a peanut allergy. One day, the girl was playing in the yard, and her dog began to circle a pile of leaves the girl’s mother was raking. It turns out that there were peanut shells mixed in with the leaves that could have caused a serious allergic reaction.

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