Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies. Even trace amounts can cause a severe reaction in a child that is allergic to the legume. Parents may be able to reduce the chance that their children will develop peanut allergies by introducing the food early on, as young as four to six months of age, experts now say.
The results of several studies on the positive benefits of introducing peanuts into a child’s diet, early in their life, are encouraging new recommendations from allergy experts.
“Guidance regarding when to introduce peanut into the diet of an infant is changing, based on new research that shows that early introduction around 4-6 months of life, after a few other foods have been introduced into the infant’s diet, is associated with a significantly reduced risk of such infants developing peanut allergy,” said Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, a pediatrician and co-director of the Food Challenge and Research Unit at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, Colorado, who coauthored the update.
“This is an amazing opportunity to help potentially reduce the number of cases of peanut allergy, but this can only be done with the cooperation of parents and healthcare providers,” Greenhawt told Reuters Health.
Research used for the restructured recommendations comes from the Learning Early about Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study. In that trial, infants at high risk for peanut allergies who were exposed to peanuts early were less likely to develop an allergy by the time they reached five years of age. The findings from that study were published last year in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The guidelines offer three approaches to introducing peanuts to infants- depending on their risk of allergy.
- Infants with severe eczema, egg allergy or both are at high risk for peanut allergy. They should be exposed to peanuts as early as four to six months to reduce the risk of allergy. Beforehand, however, these infants should undergo a skin prick test. If the test yields no welt or a small welt of up to 2mm, parents can introduce peanuts at home. But if the test yields a welt of 3mm or larger, peanuts should be introduced in the doctor’s office - or not at all if the welt is large and an allergist recommends avoidance.
- Infants with mild to moderate eczema who have already started solid foods should be exposed to peanuts at six months of age.
- Infants without eczema or any food allergy are at low risk, and parents can introduce peanuts in an age-appropriate form at any time starting at age six months.
Giving an infant a whole peanut is not recommended because they can choke on them. However, there are ways to prepare peanuts that can be introduced safely.
Another coauthor of the new guidelines, Dr. Amal Assa’ad, a pediatrician and director of the FARE Food Allergy Center of Excellence at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, told Reuters Health, “Several appropriate forms of peanut-containing foods are creamy peanut butter that can be made softer or more liquefied by adding warm water and let it cool, or serving corn puffs containing peanut. For older infants, peanut butter can be added to apple sauce or other fruit purees.”
Parents should consult with an allergist or their pediatrician before giving their infant peanuts in any form.
While the news about early peanut allergy intervention has been noted by various medical, media and social networks, reliable strategies for how to determine who should and should not get the therapy and when to start it, have not been available. These new guidelines help answer those questions.
The updated guidelines will be published online in January on the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website; in the meantime, the site provides the current 2010 guidelines on peanut and other food allergies.
Story source: Rob Goodler, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-allergies-peanuts-idUSKBN1361VW