23 August, 2011
When Can Kids Eat Nuts?
The American Academy of Pediatrics no longer advises waiting until your child is 1 year of age before introducing nuts in his diet because of a potential nut allergy. Delaying introducing nuts does not appear to prevent allergies from developing. There are still other reasons to wait before giving your child nuts -- primarily because it's a choking hazard -- and when you do include nuts in his diet, it's important to watch for allergy signs.
The main reason pediatricians and pediatric health organizations advise against introducing nuts in a child's diet too soon is the risk of a nut allergy. When a child ingests a food such as a nut that her body is allergic to, her body's immune system produces extra antibodies to fight the food. When the antibodies are created, chemicals such as histamines are released. The release of histamine causes allergy symptoms such as vomiting, hives, swelling and wheezing. These symptoms are sometimes mild, resulting only in a rash, or can become serious, resulting in anaphylaxis, a state where the child is unable to breathe.
Avoid giving the youngest children nuts because they pose a choking hazard. Children under 36 months should not have nuts or large chunks of nut butter. If you give your child nut butter, spread it thinly on crackers or bread. Children aged 3 to 5 can handle eating some nuts without the potential of choking, but still avoid giving children this age whole nuts, which still pose a choking hazard.
When introducing nuts into your child's diet, look for signs she has a nut allergy. Symptoms of a food allergy include hives, skin rashes such as eczema, swelling, sneezing, wheezing, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, pale skin and fainting. If you suspect a nut allergy, take your child to your pediatrician or an allergist. Physicians can conduct tests to determine if your child has a nut allergy and can formulate a plan to deal with the allergy. A nut allergy has lifelong implications, as most children do not outgrow an allergy to nuts.
Kids with a nut allergy should avoid nuts, foods containing nuts and sometimes foods processed in a facility that also processes nuts, if the nut allergy is severe. Read package labels for warnings about how the food is produced. The label should indicate whether the product contains nuts, was produced on equipment shared with nuts or is produced in a facility that processes nuts. Foods that typically contain these warning labels include cookies, candy, ice cream, baked goods and sauces.
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