Can peanut allergies be prevented?
If your child or grandchild has a peanut allergy, you are likely well-armed with information, EpiPens® and Benadryl®. But if you’re pregnant or a new parent, the best way to battle peanut allergies might just be with…peanuts.
New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) encourage pregnant moms to not avoid peanuts out of fear of passing an allergy along to their unborn child, and recommend that most infants be introduced gradually to peanut-containing foods, beginning at six months.
The new guidelines represent a major shift from previous recommendations and stem from the results of studies that have shown that children who were introduced to peanuts at a young age had up to an 80 percent lower risk of developing a peanut allergy than those who were kept peanut-free.
“I’m very excited about these guidelines,” says Dr. Andrea Kane, an Advocate Medical Group pediatrician on staff at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Early exposure to high-risk allergens is important in helping to reduce risk of long-term peanut allergy.”
For infants who are at higher risk of a peanut allergy due to family history or sensitivities shown by an existing egg allergy or severe eczema, the guidelines recommend a physician-supervised introduction to peanut-containing foods as early as at 4-6 months, when the baby begins to take solid foods. The guidelines caution against feeding an infant solid peanuts or peanut butter, as they can be choking hazards; instead, appropriately pureed food containing added peanut proteins is recommended.
Parents should discuss with their baby’s doctor the best time and method for safely introducing peanuts into their baby’s diet.
“We expect that widespread implementation of these guidelines by health care providers will prevent the development of peanut allergy in many susceptible children and ultimately reduce the prevalence of peanut allergy in the United States,” said NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci, in a press release.
According to Kids With Food Allergies (KFA), approximately 0.6 percent of kids in the U.S. have a peanut allergy that can result in mild to severe and sometimes fatal respiratory reactions. Most carry the allergy with them throughout their life.
“We still need to take peanut allergy seriously,” says Dr. Kane. “If you have a peanut allergy, avoid peanuts, have an EpiPen in case of an emergency and see your doctor as recommended.”
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