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NIH Changes Peanut Recommendations to Help Kids Avoid Peanut Allergies

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Doctors are now suggesting parents expose children to peanuts earlier.

A new statement released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests children should be fed peanuts in their first year of life  – a significant deviation from previous guidelines set in 2000 by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which told parents to wait until after their child’s 3rd birthday to give them peanuts. The new guidelines are based on a 2015 clinical trial, which found that children with a high risk of developing a peanut allergy who ate peanuts regularly starting in infancy up until age 5, were 81 percent less likely to develop an allergy.

The new recommendations, which are also supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, set three different guidelines for introducing peanuts into your child’s diet. The first guideline addresses children considered high-risk for peanut allergies – those with severe eczema, egg allergy, or both. Those with a high-risk of developing a peanut allergy, according to the new guidelines, should have foods containing peanuts, introduced into their diets between 4 to 6 months of age. Those in the high-risk bracket should also be evaluated be a physician for skin and blood allergy tests before being fed peanuts.

Children in the second category, those with mild or moderate eczema, should be introduced to peanuts around 6 months. Children in the third category, those with a low risk of developing a peanut allergy, can have foods containing peanuts introduced into their diets as their parents see fit, once they are able to eat solid food.

Doctors are encouraging parents to follow the new guidelines, hoping the new recommendations will decrease the rising rates of peanut allergies. “There is this magic window of opportunity, where you can introduce peanut-containing foods,” Dr. David Stukus, a pediatric allergist in Ohio and coauthor of the new guidelines, told Stat News. “Our immune system undergoes dramatic development and maturation during the first years of life. We introduce peanut-containing foods early, the immune system can get used to it.”

Originally published: January 6, 2017
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