New Recommendations Could Prevent Peanut Allergies
Guidelines from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) now say that most infants should be given peanut protein by the time they are six months old—a big change from previous guidelines that recommended keeping peanut products away from children until the age of three. Recent studies have shown that exposing very young children to peanut products could help prevent dangerous allergic reactions and lifelong peanut allergies by training the immune system not to overreact to peanut protein. The new guidelines also discount family history as a risk factor for peanut allergy.
According to the NIAID, most infants can be given a little peanut paste or powder—not whole peanuts, which pose a choking risk—but babies who are at the highest risk for developing peanut allergies should be given a small dose in an allergist’s office or other medical facility. Infants at high risk for peanut allergies include those with severe eczema or egg allergy. For these high-risk children, exposure to peanut protein between the ages of four to 11 months reduces the risk for peanut allergy by about 80 percent.
Per the new guidelines, babies at low risk for peanut allergies—those with no eczema or egg allergy—should be exposed to peanut-containing foods by the age of six months and infants at moderate risk—those with mild or moderate eczema—also should be exposed. Signs of intolerance to peanuts include vomiting or rash. Severe reactions include coughing, wheezing, and lethargy.
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