Research indicating the early introduction of peanuts into a child’s diet helps prevent allergy has created a dilemma for some parents. How, they wonder, do we safely introduce a new family member to peanuts when an older sibling is allergic to them?
Organize For Safety
One family facing this dilemma solved it by creating a well-organized system. They had been keeping their house peanut and tree nut-free because of their daughter’s allergies, but after reading the LEAP study (Learning Early About Peanut allergy) they wanted their nine-month-old son to benefit from an early introduction to peanut.
The system these parents set up to safely accommodate peanut introduction has now been in place about 18 months. So far no reactions have occurred. This is what they do:
- Certain shelves, containers, and storage spaces are designated for foods containing allergens, and all are clearly labeled. Using plastic storage bins provides an extra layer of allergen protection, and all allergenic items are kept on the highest shelves.
- On grocery shopping day a “3-check rule” is strictly followed: nutrition labels are checked at the grocery store; nutrition labels are checked again when unloading the groceries at home; any allergen-containing products are tagged or color-coded immediately—before use.
- All kitchen utensils are made with non-porous materials such as glass or stainless steel (no plastic, or wood). Some kitchen tools (e.g., toasters, cutting boards, can openers, certain utensils) are purchased in pairs, and those used to prepare allergen-free foods are clearly labeled or color-coded.
- At mealtime, allergen-containing dishes are always set in the same place on the dinner table or counter, and allergen-free dishes are always set in the same place on the dinner table or counter.
- After meals, table and kitchen surfaces are thoroughly cleaned with warm water and soap, if available; otherwise, a commercial disinfectant wipe is used.
- A designated space in the family’s kitchen holds their daughter’s emergency medications, allergy action plan, emergency contact list, and insurance information.
This family also recommends having a landline available in the home for emergency calls in the event cell phones are not working.
For parents uncomfortable with making allergenic foods a part of family meals, allergist Dr. Hemant Sharma offers the following suggestions for introducing young children to peanut, or other foods that older siblings must avoid:
- Give the young child peanut at a time the allergic sibling is regularly out of the house, such as during school hours.
- When giving the young child peanut at home, confine him or her in a high-chair, or to a specific location. Afterward, clean all surfaces and utensils with warm, soapy water. Bathing the child afterward would ensure all nut residue is off the child’s skin.
- Give the younger child a peanut product when he or she is with a parent outside the home.
Remember, very young children should not be fed actual peanuts since nuts present a choking hazard. Consult a pediatrician about safe ways of introducing little ones to peanut, or tree nuts.