Parents worried about peanut allergies now have some surprising new guidance: Give some peanut to your babies.
New guidelines out Thursday say that even babies with the highest risk of having a peanut allergy should be given small doses of the nut because it might prevent the allergy from ever developing,
Most kids should get a taste of peanut protein by the time they are 6 months old, and they should get regular doses if they don’t have an allergic reaction. Those at highest risk should be tested in a specialist’s office.
“We actually want all children to have peanut introduced,” Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, an allergy specialist at Children’s Hospital Of Colorado.
“There is a window where the immune system isn’t going to recognize peanut as dangerous and that we believe happens very, very early.”
It’s a big change from previous guidelines, which recommended that people keep peanuts and peanut products away from their kids completely until they are 3 years old if there is a risk of allergies.
The new guidelines from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and other groups follow up on findings that giving peanut to kids early enough in life can train their immune systems so they don’t overreact and cause a dangerous allergic reaction.
“Living with peanut allergy requires constant vigilance. Preventing the development of peanut allergy will improve and save lives and lower health care costs,” NIAID Director Dr. Tony Fauci said in a statement.
The new guidelines say most babies can try a little peanut paste or powder — never whole peanuts — at home.
High-risk infants are defined as those with severe eczema or an egg allergy. Those babies should be tested at a specialist’s office when they’re 4 to 6 months old and have started taking solid food.
The specialist can watch the infant to make sure nothing dangerous happens when they get a little dose of peanut. The benefits can be enormous.
“We know that these children with severe eczema and or egg allergy had about an 80 percent reduced chance of developing peanut allergy if peanut was introduced between four to 11 months of life,” Greenhawt said.
“That’s a whole generation of children who never have to develop this allergy.”