Feeding peanut products to babies may prevent the development of peanut allergies, according to new guidelines from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Under the new guidelines, parents should introduce peanut products to children as young as 4 months old to help build immunity to the allergy.
The guidelines are a departure from older recommendations to parents: In 2000, many doctors advised parents to wait until their children were toddlers before introducing peanut-based products into their diet.
“Really, since 2008, the guidelines have been that you don’t need to delay [introducing peanuts into your children’s diet],” Todd Green, MD, of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC said. “We really want parents to feel like they can forge ahead.”
Allergies to peanuts are among the most common food allergies, causing symptoms that range from mild to life-threatening. The allergy often develops during childhood and persists through adulthood. Babies who experience severe eczema or egg allergies are most at risk.
Dr. Green said doctors at Children’s Hospital conduct “food challenges” for babies at high risk of developing peanut allergies. The testing method is the most accurate way to determine if a child has a food allergy.
During a food challenge, doctors feed babies a serving size of a particular food and monitor them for an allergic reaction. If no reaction takes place, the child may be able to eat a larger portion of that food type.
“What we’ve found is that you’re probably doing more harm than good by delaying peanut products,” Dr. Green said.
Dr. Green, director of the Food Allergy Center at Children’s Hospital, said most parents can begin introducing peanut-based products to babies around 6 months of age. Actual peanuts may be a choking hazard, and parents should consult with their pediatrician on the appropriate age to first feed them to children.
For more, visit the website for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.