COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ohio News Service): The number of children allergic to peanuts in the U.S. has risen dramatically in recent decades, and new guidelines being released Thursday may help reduce a child’s risk of developing a peanut allergy.
Dr. Amal Assa’ad, professor of pediatrics in the Allergy Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, helped to write the recommendations released by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
She says in the past, it was recommended to delay giving children foods containing peanuts during their first few years of life. But newer research shows there are benefits to earlier introduction.
“If we try and beat the onset of peanut allergy by feeding an infant peanuts – peanut butter or peanut protein – early on, we might be able to even prevent the peanut allergy from occurring,” she states.
Assa’ad says the key is knowing a child’s risk for developing a peanut allergy. Children at highest risk have eczema and/or an egg allergy, and the guidelines suggest they be exposed as early as 4 to 6 months of age.
It’s also recommended that infants with mild to moderate eczema who are already eating solid foods should be exposed at 6 months of age – the same age babies who don’t exhibit any risk factors can also try foods that contain peanuts.
Assa’ad notes that prior to introduction, it’s crucial to have a child at high risk for peanut allergies be seen by a doctor or an allergist, who can test for a peanut sensitivity.
That’s where parents also can get the proper instructions for how to go about giving the child foods containing peanuts. She adds there are some children who develop peanut allergies without any risk factors.
“That’s why the first feeding of peanut-containing food needs to be under close supervision, because there’s just some random kids who get peanut allergies for no real reason that we know of,” she points out.
A peanut allergy can cause hives, rashes, breathing difficulties, and a severe reaction can even be fatal.