An expert panel has issued new guidelines on Thursday to reduce the likelihood of babies to develop potentially deadly food allergy.
Peanut allergy affects about 2 percent of children in the U.S. Those who are allergic to peanuts need to avoid a wide range of peanut-containing food for risk of developing unwanted reactions.
Although relatively common, peanut allergy can be potentially deadly.
In 2014, a nursing student at Oakland University who was diagnosed with a severe form of nut allergy as a toddler, died after he was exposed to peanut butter when he visited a friend's house. The 19-year-old suffered from anaphylaxis, the constriction of the airways that prevents people from breathing.
Early Exposure To Allergy-Causing Food
Doctors used to advise parents to avoid exposing their children to high-risk allergens until such time when their immune systems have fully developed.
Findings of recent studies, however, suggest that exposing children to allergy-causing food items early may actually reduce their risk of developing allergies to these later in life.
A 2015 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, showed that children who were exposed to allergenic food as early as 4 months old had the best chances of avoiding food allergy when they get older.
The Learning Early About Peanut (LEAP) study published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that feeding peanuts to babies may help prevent them from developing allergies to the legume later.
Now, an expert panel sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) finally made recommendations to introduce peanuts early in life to avoid developing allergic reactions to it.
The guidelines, which were released on Thursday, said that most babies need to begin eating peanut-containing food products well before they celebrate their first birthday.
The new guidelines were based on the results of the landmark LEAP study and emerging data that show early exposure to the potential allergen can dramatically reduce a baby's chance of becoming allergic to it.
When To Introduce Peanuts To Babies
The recommendations provided information on how and when to introduce young children to peanut-containing food items. This depends if the infant has high, moderate, or low risk of developing peanut allergy.
High risk babies need to be introduced to peanut-containing food items between 4 to 6 months but only after a check up with a doctor. It is recommended that these children get their first taste in the doctor's office.
Most babies have low risk of developing peanut allergy. Parents can introduce them to peanut-based food products around 6 months of age.
"Infants with mild or moderate eczema should have peanut-containing foods introduced into their diets around 6 months of age to reduce the risk of peanut allergy," recommended the expert panel.
"Infants without eczema or any food allergy have peanut-containing foods freely introduced into their diets. In all cases, infants should start other solid foods before they are introduced to peanut-containing foods."
The guidelines were published on Jan. 5 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and other journals.