Peanut allergies have long been a concern for parents and families. In the past several years, the instance of peanut allergies and children – along with confusion and fear about how and when to expose young children to peanut ingredients – has been growing.
Peanut allergies generally develop in childhood and continue into adulthood, and they’re not to be taken lightly. People who live with peanut allergies, along with their families, must maintain constant vigilance in the face of a peanut-contaminated environment. Allergic reactions can come from traces of peanuts from unexpected sources, and may be severe or life-threatening.
And while there’s no cure for peanut allergy, a new set of guidelines from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), can help parents prevent an allergy to peanuts by introducing the ingredient earlier in life.
LEAP (or Learning Early About Peanut Allergy), the clinical trial that brought about these new recommendations, found that infants who regularly consumed peanut-containing foods beginning early in life reduced the risk of developing peanut allergy by 81 percent.
According to these new guidelines, infants from six to 11 months of age should be introduced to foods that contain peanuts.
The recommendations separate children into several groups, and offer guidelines for each one:
Guideline 1: High risk of developing peanut allergy
Because they already have eczema or an egg allergy, these children are at a high risk for peanut allergy, and should have peanut products introduced to their diets around four to six months of age. However, parents should check with their healthcare providers before peanut products are introduced; allergy tests may need to be performed first. The first feeding of peanut-containing food may even be done at your provider’s office.
Guideline 2: Infants with mild or moderate eczema
If your child has mild or moderate eczema, introducing peanut-containing foods into his or her diet around six months of age is ideal. But there’s no need to force it; if your family doesn’t regularly eat peanut butter or peanuts, it’s okay to wait to introduce the food to your child.
Guideline 3: Infants with no allergies
Children without eczema or food allergies may have peanut-containing foods included in their diets at any time. Just as with Guideline 2, however, there’s no need to rush the introduction of peanut products if they’re not regularly eaten by other family members.
Things to remember:
- Never give infants and small children whole peanuts – they could choke. Instead, try a few teaspoons of peanut butter mixed with hot water, to form a smooth (not sticky) puree.
- Peanut-containing foods should not be the first solid foods your infant eats. Try other solid foods before introducing peanut-containing foods.
- Clinical Guidelines to Prevent Peanut Allergy (National Institutes of Health)
- Peanut Allergy (American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology)
- Nut and Peanut Allergy (Nemours‘ KidsHealth)