Feeding peanut mush to babies may be the surest way to prevent allergies to the common food product in children, according to a new study. When youngsters considered to be at high risk for peanut allergies were fed the legume, tolerance for the common allergen appeared to be permanent, investigators concluded.

Youngsters in the study were fed peanuts in a supervised setting. Once they became accustomed to the product, their bodies eventually learned the food does not represent a threat – a change that lasted at least a year after initial exposures. This was the case even for children who did not continue to eat peanuts following the start of treatments.

"The therapy persisted, and after 12 months of avoidance there was no increase in the rates of peanut allergy. They maintained their ability to tolerate peanuts, even though they hadn't been eating it," Sherry Farzan, an allergist with Northwell Health who was not involved in the study, said.

Around 80 percent of infants exposed to peanuts did not experience this allergy when they grew to preschool age. This technique was shown to affect children at risk of developing an allergy, but is not useful for treating kids who have already experienced a negative reaction.

Peanuts are one of the most serious of all allergens, often producing serious or even fatal reactions. About 0.6 percent of all American children suffer from the condition, although approximately 20 percent of those youngsters will outgrow the allergy by the time they are adults.

Researchers are warning parents not to feed peanuts to their children without proper supervision. Medical professionals are able to determine the correct dose of the allergen to alter the immune system without triggering a serious reaction. If such a response does take place, doctors will be able to quickly treat symptoms before they become dangerous.

Prior to this study, doctors typically advised parents to avoid exposing their child to high-risk allergens until their immune systems fully developed. These new findings suggest just the opposite treatment may be beneficial for some patients.

Analysis of how peanut exposure could affect children at risk of developing a reaction to the common allergen was profiled in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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