A peanut allergy attack usually means difficulty breathing, and it can be life-threatening in severe cases. There is currently no cure for peanut allergy, so it requires vigilance from those who suffer. They need to constantly check food labels or have to specify to food providers or restaurants to take out any peanuts in the dish.
Many health experts have advised parents to delay introducing nuts to babies until after their first year to prevent them from developing allergies. In 2000, guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics even advised parents to delay introducing peanut-containing food until after a kid's third birthday especially if they are considered high-risk for allergies.
Now, however, updated dietary guidelines from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend an even earlier age to introduce peanuts to babies. To prevent developing peanut allergy, the new guidelines gives parents the go-ahead to introduce peanut-containing food to all babies after they've been given other solid foods, according to a panel of experts sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of NIH.
Doctors have the option to perform an allergy blood test, a skin prick test, or an oral food challenge. The results of these tests will help decide if and how peanut should be safely introduced to the infant’s diet. There are three separate recommendations depending on the likelihood of a child to develop the allergy.
Guideline 1. For high-risk infants or babies who already have severe eczema, egg allergy or both, peanut-containing food should be introduced to their diet as early as 4 to 6 months old.
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Guideline 2. For babies with mild or moderate eczema, they should be given peanut-containing foods at around 6 months old to reduce the risk of developing a peanut allergy.
Guideline 3. For low-risk infants, those who doesn't have eczema or any other food allergy, they can have peanut-containing food anytime after they have tasted other solid foods.
The updated guidelines are largely due to the findings of a groundbreaking study released early last year. It shows that early exposure to peanut-containing food may actually help kids develop long-term allergy protection, rather than cause it.
"The study clearly showed that introduction of peanut early in life significantly lowered the risk of developing peanut allergy by age 5," says Daniel Rotrosen, M.D., director of NIAID’s Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation, in a statement.
"Living with peanut allergy requires constant vigilance. Preventing the development of peanut allergy will improve and save lives and lower health care costs," NIAID director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. toldBoston.com. "It's a step forward. When you do desensitize them from an early age, you have a very positive effect."
One way to introduce your baby to peanuts safely is to mix a couple of teaspoons of smooth peanut butter with a couple of teaspoons of warm water and stir until it has a smooth soupy or purée-like consistency. It’s equally important to give your baby peanut-containing food regularly, about three times a week. But we highly advise working closely with your doctor when it comes to peanut allergies.