New Allergy Guidance: Babies should be fed peanut, say experts
Differing from a previous guideline, which recommended that people should keep peanuts and peanut products away from kids completely until they are age three, if there is a risk of allergies, a new guideline has said all babies should be fed peanuts.
An allergy specialist at Children’s Hospital of Colorado, Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, in a chat with NBC News, said that even children 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. “We actually want all children to have peanut introduced,” he said.
The guidelines recommended that most kids should get a taste of peanut protein by the time they are six 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.
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,” said NIAID Director, Dr. Tony Fauci, 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 are four to six 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.
“That’s a whole generation of children who never have to develop this allergy.”
“We know that these children with severe eczema and or egg allergy had about an 80 per cent reduced chance of developing peanut allergy if peanut was introduced between four to 11 months of life,” Greenhawt said.
Even if they have a sensitivity to peanuts, they may not be fully allergic and being fed a small dose of peanut may help prevent the allergy from ever developing, according to the new guidelines. It may scare parents, but it shouldn’t, Greenhawt said. “We believe the process to be very, very safe,” he said.
In a study published last year, none of the infants given tiny doses of peanut protein had severe allergic reactions. Moderate-risk infants are those with mild to moderate eczema. They can be fed a little peanut-containing food at home without a doctor’s help, according to the guidelines being published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and elsewhere.
Low-risk children with no egg allergy or evidence of eczema can get peanut-containing foods when parents decide but they should get some by the age of six months, after they start solid foods.
Whole peanuts can choke small children and no child under the age of 4 should get whole peanuts, the groups cautioned.
Kelly Schreiner of Marble Hill, Missouri tried it with her daughter Camden, who is two years old. Her older brother Zach, now three, had a peanut allergy he later outgrew and Camden had an egg allergy, so Schreiner was worried. But it worked. Camden got a little peanut in the allergist’s office and she never developed a peanut allergy.