New landmark federal guidelines are making waves in the allergy community. On January 5 the National Institutes of Health released new recommendations regarding the introduction of peanut-containing products to infants. These new guidelines call for parents to introduce peanuts into their baby’s diet as early as 4 to 6 months of age, contrary to previous advice.
The hope of these new guidelines is to reduce the number of peanut allergies among the nation’s youth. Peanut allergies are one of the most common food allergies in children, and the rate of these allergies tripled between 1997 and 2008. Peanuts are also among the most common allergens that trigger anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can become fatal.
Many doctors, including those at Hudson Allergy, support the new guidelines as they are in line with new scientific understanding and research that has found that early exposure to peanut-containing foods may prevent the onset of a peanut allergy. Clinical trial results from 2015 showed that peanut consumption started in infancy and continued to 5 years of age resulted in an 81% reduction in peanut allergy development among high risk infants.
Some infants may be considered high risk of a peanut allergy. These include babies with a family history of peanut allergy and those with severe eczema or egg allergies. It is recommended that babies at high risk should have their first taste of peanut-containing products at a doctor’s office at 4 to 6 months of age. Babies with mild eczema should be considered moderate risk and can have their first peanut product at home at 6 months of age, according to the new NIH guidelines.
The new guidelines recommend that peanuts be introduced to infants as pureed peanut butter or liquefied peanut butter as these are less of a choking hazard than whole peanuts or regular peanut butter. Peanut-containing foods should be introduced after infants have started on solid foods.
Living with a peanut allergy can be stressful and requires lifelong diligence with regard to avoidance. Preventing the development of such an allergy can mean an increase in overall quality of life as children age. It also reduces healthcare costs for families.
While this recent research and guidelines are encouraging, it is important to note that peanut allergies are still a serious concern for those that live with them. People with peanut allergies should continue to avoid peanuts, carry emergency medication, and visit an allergist as needed.