Was I nuts to give my baby peanuts?

As a new study shows that giving babies peanut-based snacks can cut the risk of them developing peanut allergy by 80 per cent, I’m feeling happy that I took matters into my own hands 16 years ago.

In 1998, when my daughter was one year old, I drove to the car park of the Whttington Hospital in London, where she was born, and gave her a peanut-butter sandwich (or, to be more accurate, a peanut-butter soldier).

spoonful of peanut butterDespite there being no family history of allergies, I was anxious about what might happen – I imagined her lips swelling up and her airways constricting. Had she shown any symptoms of anaphylaxis, I was prepared to spring her from her car seat and race into A&E.

Without many teeth, it took her a while to eat her snack. Once she’d swallowed most of it and I’d cleaned up the drool and mushy leftovers, we sat in the car for half an hour. I read her a story and watched her like a mother hawk. She smiled and broke wind.

At the time, I feared I might have been putting her at risk by introducing her to a potentially harmful food at such a tender age, but I couldn’t face the alternative: worrying every time she went to a party or to a friend’s house to play.

Parenting is a minefield of risk assessment and we all do our best to keep our children as safe as possible. Did I do the right thing? I don't know, but I do know that if I ever become a grandmother I'll find it reassuring if my kids do what I did.

Worrying about your kids goes

Worrying about your kids goes with the parental territory but it's interesting how different eras bring different worries. It wouldn't have occurred to me to be concerned about peanut butter when my first child was little but a bowl of whole grapes would have brought me out in a cold sweat due to the potential choking hazard! In our house they always had to be cut in half...

Does anyone else think that

Does anyone else think that food allergies seem to be on the increase, or is it that we're just more aware of them now?

I don't remember any of my friends having a peanut allergy when I was a child but many schools now ban products containing peanuts and other allergens to protect children with severe allergies.

It's interesting to read that exposure to peanuts can help prevent an allergy developing. Maybe the role of peanut avoidance in the growth of peanut allergies is similar to the way overuse of antibacterial products can compromise developing immune systems...

Hopefully the study is right, and early exposure (in a controlled environment if there's a family history) will lead to fewer children developing what can be a terrifying allergy.

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