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Prevent Peanut Allergy in Kids [Guidelines]

This article was updated on October 28, 2019.

In the food allergy world, and the world of pediatrics, the buzz is all about peanuts. Specifically, the new peanut allergy guidelines. Learn how to prevent peanut allergy with the latest research and guidelines.Handful of peanuts. Prevent peanut allergy guidelines

To read the media headlines, one might be surprised to hear it’s critical to feed baby peanuts as soon as he is ready to start solids.

The new peanut allergy findings certainly reveal some interesting data. And it flies in the face of standard food allergy prevention practices. You’ll be excited to learn there are ways to prevent the development of peanut allergies.

Food Allergy Prevention: The Backstory

For years {back when my babies were babies}, the recommendation to prevent peanut allergy was to hold off on introducing peanuts until kids were at least 4 years old.

In 2008, the message changed with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) new recommendations, emphasizing there was no research to support the avoidance of peanuts in young children.

In other words, as long as peanuts didn’t present a choking hazard, parents could introduce them after one year of age. {This was true with the other highly allergenic foods such as egg, fish, tree nuts, etc}.

Now, we have a new study from the UK, which, again, is poised to change the recommendations about introducing peanuts and peanut allergy prevention.

What Does the LEAP Study Tell Us?

In the LEAP study (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy), researchers looked at the incidence of peanut allergy in young children starting at ages 4 to 11 months (enrollment) and up through age 5 years.

Essentially, babies who were already sensitive to peanut were divided into two main groups: One group consumed peanut products at least 3 times a week (6 grams of peanut protein, which is equivalent to 24 grams of peanuts or 3 teaspoons of peanut butter per week).

The other group completely avoided peanut products for the first 5 years of life.

The results of the study showed that the kids who AVOIDED peanuts in the first 5 years of life had a 13.7% prevalence of peanut allergy and those who ate peanuts in the first 5 years of life had a 2% prevalence of peanut allergy.

Big difference!

In the high-risk infants who showed a positive skin prick test to peanut at the start of the study, 35.3% of those infants who avoided peanuts had a peanut allergy, while 10.6% of those who ate peanuts had a peanut allergy.

Another big difference!

In other words, if peanut was introduced between 4 and 11 months of age, a significant reduction of peanut allergy occurred.

You can read the full study here.

Are Peanut Allergy Prevention Efforts Fail-Proof?

Some children had peanut allergy during the study, showing that early introduction isn’t fail-proof.

Peanut allergy can still develop despite attempts at prevention.

This study included high-risk infants with minimal or negative skin prick test responses to peanut.

What about low risk kids?

This particular study does not address outcomes or a strategy for those kids with a low risk for peanut allergy.

But follow up studies do.

This study was made possible by funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), as well as other sources, including the National Peanut Board.

{To clarify my position on research funding by corporations: I am all for free and clear funding (ie, no influence from grantors or funders), as long as the research design and study is sound and objective. After all, money for research doesn’t grow on trees…}

The AAP in partnership with other leading organizations has put together interim guidelines for using this new research.

There’s been swift movement by major organizations.

See the link at the bottom of this post for the AAP’s guidelines. Or read, How to Introduce Peanuts to Your Baby.

Wrapping Up

If you have little ones (or even big ones), the new peanut recommendations may be frightening.

For one, it’s goes against everything you’ve been told about serving peanuts to little kids and the potential for developing a peanut allergy.

Even more worrisome, anaphylaxis can be deceptive, even silent, in a very young child.

In other words, parents may not recognize what is happening to their child before it’s too late.

Even I misread my own son’s first allergic reaction to tree nuts (way back when)—and I am versed in food allergies and allergic reactions.

Parents will need more education about how to recognize and treat a food allergy reaction.

If you’re nervous, you can consult with your pediatrician before taking steps to introduce peanuts {or at least do some independent research} into the diets of their children.

[Read: When can I start feeding my baby peanut butter?]

These new findings about peanut allergy are encouraging—even promising.

Thankfully, several other studies have rolled out supporting early introduction of peanuts between ages 6 months and one year to prevent peanut allergy.

These recommendations have been extended to the Big 8 food allergens so that children are less likely to develop food allergies.

The AAP’s Interim Guidance for Peanut Allergy Prevention: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/136/3/600.full

What do you think about this new research?

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