New NIH Guidelines Issued To Prevent Peanut Allergies: How To Introduce Peanut-Containing Food To Infants?


New clinical guidelines were issued concerning means of preventing peanut allergy in infants. The recommendations are issued by an expert panel which is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The recommendation, issued Jan. 5, addresses the issue of peanut allergy, for which there is no current cure available. For people who have more serious allergic reactions, exposure to peanuts could sometimes be life threatening. The guidelines were published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, as well as in various other journals, in order to raise awareness of the new recommendations.

Feed Infants Peanut-Containing Foods

The allergy is usually developed during childhood, and it remains a health condition throughout the entire life of the person. However, these new guidelines start from the scientifically-proven premise that introducing food which contains peanuts into the dietary habits of children when they're very small can prevent developing these allergies.

Should these recommendations be broadly implemented, the number of children who develop peanut allergies could drop significantly, this condition being one of the most serious and lethal food allergies there is. Annually, peanut allergies are accountable for the highest number of deaths due to anaphylaxis among all food allergies. Anaphylaxis is the constriction of the airways, which prevents people from breathing, causing death through asphyxiation.

"If we can put this into practice over a period of several years, I would be surprised if we would not see a dramatic decrease in the incidence of peanut allergies," noted Dr. Anthony Fauci, the institute's director.

According to the recommendation, there is "a window of time" when the body is more likely to accept food rather than negatively react to it. This period is during the first years of life, when the body's reflexes and habits are not yet formed, and it can be educated to accept ingesting food it would otherwise become allergic to.

Turning The Other Way Around

Back in 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that parents would not feed their children peanuts until these reach the age of three. However, despite issuing this recommendation, the incidence of peanut allergy continued to increase. In 2010, roughly two percent of the children across the United States were allergic to peanuts, compared to less than one percent back in 1999.

As the number of peanut allergies has quadrupled during the past 13 years, most schools are forced to ban foods which contain peanuts because of the high incidence of children who could be affected by peanut-containing products.

In 2015, a study benefited from huge popularity. Known as the "Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP)" study, it tested 640 infants who were at risk of developing peanut allergies. The results showed that children who were given peanuts regularly as infants had an 81 percent smaller chance of developing an allergy to peanuts by the age of five.

"We now think that you can actually become allergic through your skin, specifically broken skin such as in children with eczema, if they're exposed to these foods in the environment and not already eating them," noted Dr. Elissa Abrams co-author of the study.

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