Peanuts safe in pregnancy

Peanut butter sandwiches are back on the menu! The official advice on eating peanuts when pregnant, breastfeeding or when weaning your baby has changed.

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Peanuts, monkey nuts, ground nuts – whatever you call them, the Government has revised its advice on whether or not it’s safe to have them in pregnancy, when breastfeeding or in the first few years of your baby’s life.

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Previously, it was advised that pregnant women, breastfeeding mums, babies and toddlers under 3 may wish to avoid peanuts to help reduce the risk of a peanut allergy developing, especially if there was a family history of allergy (such as asthma, eczema, hay fever, food allergy or other types of allergy). But in August 2009, new guidelines were decided.

The change in peanut advice comes after a major review of scientific evidence. The review showed there was no clear proof that eating or avoiding peanuts (or foods that contain peanuts) has any impact on the chances of a child developing a peanut allergy.

The new advice on eating peanuts, from the Food Standard Agency (FSA) website, says, “If you would like to eat peanuts or foods containing peanuts (such as peanut butter) during pregnancy, you can choose to do so as part of a healthy balanced diet, unless you yourself are allergic to them or unless your health professional advises you not to.” The advice for breastfeeding mums is the same.

When it comes to weaning your baby, the FSA says, “You may have heard about previous advice to avoid giving a child foods containing peanuts before three years of age, if there was a history of allergy in the child’s immediate family (such as eczema, hay fever, food allergy or other types of allergy). This has now changed because the latest research has shown that there is no clear evidence to say that this will help to reduce the risk of your child developing a peanut allergy.”

However, the FSA still advises, “If you choose to start giving your baby solid foods before six months (after talking to your health visitor or GP), don’t give them any peanuts, other nuts (such as hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts etc.), seeds, milk, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, or foods containing these ingredients until after six months of age. This is because these foods can sometimes trigger development of a food allergy.

“When you give these foods to your baby for the first time, it’s a good idea to start with one at a time so that you can spot any allergic reaction.”

The new advice also states, “If your child already has a known allergy, such as a diagnosed food allergy or diagnosed eczema, or if there is a history of allergy in your child’s immediate family (if the child’s parents, brothers or sisters have an allergy such as asthma, eczema, hay fever, or other types of allergy), then your child has a higher risk of developing peanut allergy. In these cases you should talk to your GP, health visitor or medical allergy specialist before you give peanuts or foods containing peanuts to your child for the first time.”

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Because of the risk of choking, whole nuts of any kind shouldn’t be given to children under 5.

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