Can you prevent a peanut allergy when a child has eczema?

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To avoid a serious allergic reaction, work with a board-certified dermatologist to prevent a peanut allergy.

Research shows it’s possible. You can prevent a child with eczema from developing a peanut allergy, but you’ll want to proceed carefully.

A peanut allergy can be serious — even life-threatening — if a child has the most common type of eczema, which is atopic dermatitis (AD). For years, parents avoided feeding a child with AD any food that contained peanut. It was the only way to prevent a serious allergic reaction.

While preventing a serious allergic reaction is still essential, parents, today, are also trying to stop this allergy from developing.

Introducing foods containing peanut early may prevent a peanut allergy

Findings from a landmark study show that you may be able to reduce a child’s risk of developing a peanut allergy by feeding foods that contain peanuts.

The idea for this research study began when researchers noticed that Israeli children rarely develop an allergy to peanuts. It’s believed that Israeli children develop fewer peanut allergies because they usually start eating a peanut-butter-flavored snack at about 7 months of age.

This belief led the researchers to design a study called LEAP (Learning Early about Peanut Allergy). For this study, the researchers recruited 640 babies who had AD. At the beginning of this study, the babies’ ages ranged from 4 to 10 months old.

Never feed your baby whole nuts. A nut could get stuck in your baby’s throat, causing your child to choke or stop breathing.

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For 5 years, each child in this study received a diet that either:

  • Included foods containing peanuts
  • Avoided any food containing peanuts

A very interesting finding emerged. All of the children fed foods containing peanuts were much less likely to develop a peanut allergy. Even if a child had an allergic reaction to peanuts at the beginning of the study, it was sometimes possible to prevent a peanut allergy.

The following table shows the results from the LEAP study.

Result from allergy test at beginning of study
Child's diet
Children who developed a peanut allergy
No reaction to peanuts
Fed foods with peanuts
1.9%
Allergic reaction to peanuts
Fed foods with peanuts
10.6%
No reaction to peanuts
Not fed foods with peanuts
13.7%
Allergic reaction to peanuts
Not fed foods with peanuts
35.3%

Finding: Feeding foods containing peanuts may reduce a child's risk of developing a peanut allergy

While this finding can be very encouraging for parents, it’s essential to work with a board-certified dermatologist or allergist if your child has AD. A child who has AD may already have developed an allergic reaction to peanuts. By working with a dermatologist or allergist, you’ll know what precautions to take.

Ideally, you want to start working with a board-certified dermatologist or allergist when your child is 4 to 6 months old.

Benefits of preventing an allergy to peanuts

When someone develops a peanut allergy, the allergy tends to be lifelong. This means, the person will have to take precautions for life.

Precautions include reading every food label, avoiding certain foods, and steering clear of some restaurants.

Early in the child’s life, parents must read every food label. It’s essential to know whether the food contains traces of peanuts or other nuts. Later on, your child will have to check every food label.

If the food was made in the United States, you’ll be able to tell whether a food contains peanuts. All foods made in the United States must include a warning label if a food contains peanuts or other nuts.

Food from other countries may not include a warning. To prevent a serious allergic reaction, your child may have to avoid eating foods from other countries.

If your child develops a peanut allergy, you’ll likely have to do more than check food labels. To prevent an allergic reaction, your child may need to avoid ice cream shops, bakeries, and some restaurants. If a trace of peanuts wound up on an ice cream scooper or plate, your child could have a serious allergic reaction.

Your child may also need to carry rescue medication, such as epinephrine, for life. This medicine cannot be kept in a locker or glovebox. It must always be with your child.

Because a peanut allergy tends to last for life and require taking precautions, finding a way to prevent this allergy can be life changing.

Dermatologists can help parents prevent a peanut allergy

If your child has AD and is between 4 and 6 months of age, now’s the best time to contact a board-certified dermatologist. If you need a dermatologist, you can find one at:

Find a dermatologist


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References
American Academy of Dermatology. “NIAID guidelines for food allergy.” Last accessed January 31, 2018.

Du Toit G, Roberts G, et al. “Randomized trial of peanut consumption in infants at risk for peanut allergy.” N Engl J Med 2015; 372:803-13.

Wynnis TL. “Food allergy and atopic dermatitis: Fellow travelers or triggers?” Dermatology News. In” Emerging science and management of atopic dermatitis.” (A CME-/CE certified supplement). December 2017; 7-9.