20th June 2007 15:27Is it safe to eat peanuts during pregnancy? The BabyCentre Editorial Team answers: The UK government recommends that certain women avoid eating peanuts while they are pregnant. You are advised to avoid peanuts if you, your baby's father, or one of your previous children has had an allergic reaction to something. Allergic conditions include: • eczema • asthma • hayfever • any allergic response (rashes, itches, bumps) if you've eaten food such as strawberries, shellfish, or peanuts. It is only peanuts that should be avoided by some women - other nuts, such as brazil, hazelnuts, walnuts or cashew nuts are perfectly safe. An allergic reaction is when the body over-responds to a particular substance: this can cause breathing problems, wheezing, skin conditions, and other symptoms. Peanut allergy is a growing problem in the UK. Approximately one in 200 four-year-old children has a peanut allergy; most children will develop the problem before their third birthday. Peanut allergy can cause a severe reaction called anaphylactic shock in which the allergic person has such trouble breathing that they die. Before an allergy can develop, a child first has to come into contact with small traces of peanut. This initial contact sensitises the child so that she later has a severe allergic reaction when she eats peanuts or foods containing peanuts. Some experts now think that this initial sensitisation may occur during pregnancy, when a tiny amount of the peanut protein crosses the placenta, although there is no definitive evidence to prove this yet and further research is needed. However, it is because peanut allergy is an increasing problem -- and such a serious one - that the government has advised that women with an allergic condition or who know that there is one in the family should avoid peanuts while pregnant or breastfeeding. Breastfeeding gives your baby protection against many infections; exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby's life helps decrease her risk of allergies in the early years of life. However, if you eat peanuts, there is a small chance that your baby will come into contact with traces of peanut through your milk. If you decide to avoid peanuts while pregnant or breastfeeding, you need to avoid not only peanuts themselves (which are also sometimes called monkey nuts or groundnuts), but also products which may contain them. These include: • peanut butter • cereals, cakes, muesli, biscuits, some salad dressings, ice cream, and breads - always read the packaging label carefully for information on the ingredients • dishes in restaurants - either ask if peanuts have been included or choose a simple meal which contains no 'hidden' ingredients Your supermarket may be able to provide you with a list of the nut-free products it produces and sells.