Health advice has swung 180 degrees once again. Peanuts are now officially in the clear –and even recommended – for infants and young children.
In the last ten years, the prevalence of peanut allergies in children has doubled, and rates are around 1-3%. Peanut allergies can be scary stuff. And while it might seem like common sense to avoid exposing a tiny infant to a potentially deadly allergen, it turns out that exposure is what might actually save kids from becoming allergic in the first place.
A NIH-funded randomized clinical trial, Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP), found that introducing peanuts to infants through the age of five significantly reduces the risk of developing peanut allergies.
As a result of this landmark study, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), a branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH), just released new clinical guidelines.
The guidelines are based on the level of risk of developing a peanut allergy (as indicated by eczema or an egg allergy). For infants in the high risk category, peanut-containing foods should be introduced between 4-6 months of age. For infants with mild or moderate risk, peanut-containing foods should be introduced at 6 months of age. Infants with the lowest risk can be freely introduced to peanut-containing foods.
“We expect that widespread implementation of these guidelines by health care providers will prevent the development of peanut allergy in many susceptible children and ultimately reduce the prevalence of peanut allergy in the United States,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci M.D. in a NIH news release.