Photo of three babies with peanuts in the foreground

For many years, parents were told not to give their infants foods that contain peanuts. The LEAP research study in 2016 led to changes in national guidelines. It showed that babies given peanut products early in life could have less of a risk of developing a peanut allergy.

The updated guidelines were a game-changer in peanut allergy prevention. Now new research is backing that up.

A new peanut allergy prevention study compared 5,276 infants in 2017-11 with 1,933 infants in 2018-19. The first group avoided peanut products in the first year of life. The second group did not.

Researchers found that 3.1% of the 2007-2011 group of babies developed a peanut allergy.  In the 2018-19 group, only 2.6% developed a peanut allergy. This represents a 16% decline in young children developing a peanut allergy.

Study results were similar when accounting for eczema in the 2018-19 group. In this group, 77.7% of infants ate peanut in the first year of life. Of those who consumed peanut, 2.6% were allergic; of those who did not, 4.8% were allergic.

Researchers stressed the number of children with peanut allergy remains high. More research on early introduction of peanut is necessary. It’s estimated 2.2% of all U.S. children have peanut allergy.

Based on these and other research findings, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently updated its Dietary Guidelines. The USDA guidelines now encourage early introduction of food allergens to young children.

What do the new NIH Guidelines recommend for children at risk for peanut allergy?

Here are the guidelines for infants and young children at risk for peanut allergy:

Infants with severe eczema, egg allergy or both

  • High risk for peanut allergy
  • Give peanut-containing foods as early as 4-6 months of age to reduce the risk of peanut allergy
  • First see a board-certified allergist for peanut allergy testing — this will determine if introducing peanut is safe
  • Introduction of peanut should be done in a doctor’s office

Infants with mild or moderate eczema

  • Give peanut-containing foods around 6 months of age to reduce the risk of peanut allergy
  • These children do not need to first see a board-certified allergist
  • They can have peanut-containing foods introduced at home — once they are able to tolerate solid foods

Infants without any eczema symptoms or egg allergy

  • Give peanut-containing foods around 6 months of age together with other solid foods
  • These children do not need to first see a board-certified allergist
  • They can have peanut-containing foods introduced at home

Note: Never give whole peanuts to a child under the age of 5. They are a choking hazard.

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