East Tennessee families adjust to new peanut guidelines

Tandalyn Burton holds her youngest child Camryn

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – For many parents caring for a baby can be an overwhelming job. So much advice is thrown your way to keep babies safe and healthy.

Tandalyn Burton is a busy wife and mom of five. Her youngest, Camryn is just a year old. She’s all too familiar with the path to introducing first foods to babies.

“Baby number one, you know the doctor told you, and you know this is 12 years ago, the doctor said wait until six months, you introduce oatmeal. Wait for two weeks and you introduce rice cereal…” says Burton.”

For many parents, those guidelines are followed to the letter. One of the most anticipated introductions is food containing peanut.

In January, new recommendations for introducing babies to peanuts were announced. The new guidelines from the National Institutes of Health mark a shift in dietary advice, based on landmark research that found early exposure dramatically lowers a baby’s chances of becoming allergic. The recommendations spell out exactly how to introduce infants to peanut-based foods and when — for some, as early as 4 to 6 months of age — depending on whether they’re at high, moderate or low risk of developing one of the most troublesome food allergies.

Related: Giving peanut-based foods to babies early prevents allergies

East Tennessee Children’s Hospital pediatrician, Dr. Stephanie Russ-Barber welcomes the change and says her patients have been receptive.

East Tennessee Children’s Hospital pediatrician, Dr. Stephanie Russ-Barber

“So far I have not had any issues that my parents have called back,” says Russ-Barber, “Most of my parents were pretty excited about the new guidelines and I had been talking to them previously because there had been studies from Israel showing that they introduce peanut products at 4-6 months of age. Little puffed cereal, and Israel has almost no peanut allergy.”

That’s exciting news because according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), 15 million Americans have food allergies. This potentially deadly disease affects one in every 13 children in the U.S. which is about two in every classroom. The chance at reducing those numbers could be a huge breakthrough.

“I thought it was about time and I totally agree with that,” said Burton. “What I learned over the years is with my first, and I waited until she was two before I gave her peanut butter products and the same thing with my second. Then I eased back with the third and the fourth and even more with Camryn (her youngest) before they came out with the guidelines.”

Dr. Russ-Barber says for some parents, introducing peanuts earlier can be a little scary.

“I did have one mom and she was really panicked about introducing peanut products. So we talked and her solution was she was going to the emergency room, sit in the parking lot, put a movie in the van for the kids and introduce in the parking lot. She texted me later that day and said, no worries we were good,” says Dr. Russ-Barber with a big smile.

According to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, in 2016, 304 patients were treated in the emergency room for an allergic reaction. Of those 304 patients, 31 were in anaphylactic shock, which is the most serious reaction and three were from peanuts.

Learn more about food allergies:

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