Peanut allergy prevention can be broken into two sets: preventing a peanut allergy from developing in pregnant women, and preventing an allergic reaction resulting from peanut allergy from occurring in those with such an allergy.
Preventing the Development of a Peanut Allergy
While it may not be possible to completely prevent a peanut allergy from developing in infants with a sufficient pre-disposition, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the risk factor in those infants.
Prevention During pregnancy
Women with allergies or with a family history of allergies (hay fever, asthma, eczema—in short, any atopic disease), or in situations where the biological father or his immediate family has a history of allergies, are typically advised to avoid all peanut products during their pregnancy and during the breastfeeding stage. Additionally, the breastfeeding stage should ideally last for six months and be exclusive, meaning the infant’s sole nourishment during this time should be breast milk. Research suggests this step can aide in the prevention of peanut allergy developing in the infant. It is also advised to keep the infant free from peanut products until the age of three.
These recommendations are not considered necessary in parents or their immediate families that have no history of allergies. However, they are advised to hold off on introducing peanut products until the infant has reached the age of 9 months, and at that time only smooth peanut products such as smooth peanut butter (meaning non-chunky) is considered acceptable. One reason for this is not related to peanut allergy, but to the risk of choking. To that end, no infant should be given whole peanuts until age five to further reduce any choking risk.
Prevention of an Allergic Reaction
Prevention of an allergic reaction resulting from peanut allergy comes down to dietary vigilance, which is much easier for adults. There are also a few generic drugs such as fluticasone propionate and triamcinolone which are used in the treatment of allergic symptoms. Both of these drugs can be found in Flonase and Nasacort. Both of these are anti-allergy medications used in the treatment of various allergic symptoms. However, there are a few differences between them. There has been an argument regarding which one is better between nasacort and flonase.
Learn to read the labels on all the foods you eat, and learn the subtle ways peanut products wind up in food one might not expect them to be in. See our peanut foods resource page for more information.
Wearing an ID bracelet that specifies your name, peanut allergy, doctor’s name, and emergency contact number is highly recommended.
Finally, if your doctor believes it is necessary, he can prescribe you emergency medication—injectable epinephrine—that you can carry with you at all times in the event of an emergency.
The Mayo Clinic makes the following recommendations to parents to safeguard their children from suffering an allergic reaction.
For your child:
- Teach your child to ask for help. Make certain that your child knows how to tell others about his or her peanut allergy and to ask for immediate help if they believe they might be having an allergic reaction.
- Have your child wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. Such an ID can provide your child’s name, allergy, emergency contact information, and doctor’s name in the event of an emergency. Please see our ID bracelets page for further information.
- Discourage your child from sharing foods. It is not unlike children to accept or swap food at school or elsewhere, so it is best to discourage your child against such a practice since the presence of peanuts or peanut products is not always obvious, and children may forget.
For those people who spend time with your child:
- Notify key people that your child has peanut allergy. This means informing all the personnel at child care and at school, as well as the child’s friends, their parents, and any other adults who spend any time with your child, that he or she has a potentially life-threatening peanut allergy that, if exposed, will require immediate medical attention.
- Explain peanut allergy symptoms. On notifying those key people about your child’s peanut allergy, include methods to spot the onset of an allergic reaction through the many telltale signs and symptoms.
- Write an action plan. Write down, specify and provide copies of the steps that need to be taken in the event your child suffers from an allergic reaction to peanuts or peanut products.