New Guidelines Announced for When to Introduce Babies to Peanut Products
Several studies have shown that feeding infants foods containing peanuts can reduce the risk of peanut allergies
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced that, after several recent studies showed that feeding foods containing peanuts to babies can reduce the risk of peanut allergies, new federal guidelines have been developed for parents about when they should introduce their children to such foods.
A panel of allergy experts now recommends that babies as young as four to six months old should be introduced to peanut-containing foods, says NPR.
As stated in the NIH summary for parents and caregivers, when babies who have severe eczema or egg allergy—conditions that increase the risk of peanut allergy—are introduced to foods that contain peanuts at four to six months of age may lessen their risk of developing an allergy to peanuts. However, the guidelines explain that such children should be examined by an allergy specialist before being introduced to peanuts.
For babies who do not have the eczema risk factors or known food allergies, parents and caregivers can use whatever age-appropriate diet they choose.
"Parents of infants used to be told to hold off on introducing peanut-containing foods, sometimes until the toddler years, especially if there was a family history of allergies," explained NPR reporter Allison Aubrey. This was because experts believed that doing so could reduce the risk of developing allergies.
However, says Aubrey, a number of big studies recently "have found that babies at high risk for becoming allergic to peanuts are less likely to develop the allergy if they are regularly fed peanut-containing foods in the first year of life."
The NIH does caution that, because of the risk of choking, babies and small children should never be given entire peanuts. An American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology video targeted at parents recommends that they add hot water to two teaspoons of peanut butter in order to make a warm puree. The parents should feed the child a small amount of this puree, then monitor the child for roughly 10 minutes for any kind of reaction like hives, rash, or trouble breathing.