Peanut allergies have the potential to seriously impact a child’s life. In some cases, the mere presence of a peanut-product can create a life threatening situation. Over the years, doctors have released a variety of recommendations designed to limit the number of children who ever develop an allergy. In 2000, it was recommended that infants avoid peanuts altogether. Since then, peanuts in the first year of life became more permissible. The most recent recommendations, released by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, recommend peanuts for most babies.
The recommendations are based on a study called LEAP, or Learning Early about Peanut Allergies. 640 babies with eczema or egg allergies, risk factors for later peanut allergies, were randomly assigned to eat of not eat peanuts. The infants exposed to peanuts were 70-80% less likely to develop an allergy over the next five years.
The new recommendations come with a few caveats. Children with egg allergies or severe eczema should be tested for allergies by a doctor before eating peanuts. Choking hazards like whole peanuts or spoonfuls of peanut butter are also off the table. Infants must also be exposed to peanuts regularly to see a reduction in allergy risk.
Our expert, Vini Mani points out that there are several ongoing studies testing whether feeding babies different foods can help prevent other allergies. So far these studies have not yielded definitive results due to the difficulty in getting babies to eat such a variety of foods on a regular basis.
Thanks to Vini Mani, a Ph.D. student in Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Harvard University, for her commentary.
Managing Correspondent: Emily Kerr
Original Study: Togias et al., Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2017)