JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A new study suggests early exposure to small amounts of peanut butter could prevent peanut allergies.
Peanuts are one of the leading causes of food allergy reactions and can be deadly. The study found eating peanut products as a baby significantly reduces the risk of developing the allergy by 80% in high-risk infants.
Food allergies is something many parents deal with. Jaime Gee's 16 year old son is allergic to shellfish.
"It's something that could kill him," Gee said. "It could be deadly."
Gee found out her son was allergic to shellfish when he was 2 years old.
"It's scary," Gee said. "Shellfish is more common than you think in most restaurants. A lot of restaurants cook stuff together."
Gee, along with other parents, faces this fear daily, especially at school.
Tara Miller, Valley View Intermediate School Nurse, said food allergies are something schools have to pay close attention to.
"We will let the cafeteria know what they are allergic to," Miller said. "We will take a picture of the student. We will send it to the cafeteria with their information on what they are allergic to."
She said in her 15 years of being a school nurse she has seen the number of food allergies grow.
"Food allergies can be very serious," Miller said. "They can be life threatening. They are usually prescribed an epipen if they have a food allergy, something to nuts or fish."
Any child who has a food allergy keeps an epipen or inhaler in Miller's office. She said they help save lives.
Miller said if the results of the study continue to show improvement and progress, it would be a great help to school nurses everywhere.
"It would be great if we didn't have all these students with severe life threatening allergies," Miller said. "It would take a lot of the pressure off of us."
Even with the results of the study, Miller still prescribes caution before exposing kids to peanuts.
"The study is really new, and it's interesting but if you are thinking of exposing your child at an early age, I'd really talk to your pediatrician before doing anything like that," Miller said.
After realizing her son had a food allergy, Gee got each of her children tested. She said luckily none of her other children have food allergies, but it's something to consider.
"You don't think about it as a first time parent," Gee said. "Just be careful. Know what you're feeding them."
The organizers of the study hope the results can give parents peace of mind if they are worried about their children developing food allergies.