Peanuts are back on the menu for babies. In a turnaround from previous recommendations, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) now advises introducing peanut-containing foods to infants with severe eczema or an allergy to eggs (conditions that put them at high risk for peanut allergy) as early as 4 months of age. Several studies have found that introducing peanut-containing foods early in life reduces the risk of peanut allergy as children grow up.
The new guidelines say that peanut-containing foods should be added to a high-risk infant’s diet at around 4 to 6 months, as long as the infant is being monitored by a health care provider and is already eating solid food. Parents of high-risk infants should talk with their providers before introducing the peanuts in case the provider wants to do an allergy blood test or refer the infant to a specialist for skin-prick testing.
The new guidelines also recommend that infants with mild or moderate eczema (a lower-risk group) have peanut-containing foods introduced at 6 months, to reduce their chances of later developing peanut allergy. Parents of low-risk infants are also advised to feed peanuts to their children at around the same age.
The changed guidelines are based on the findings of several studies, most recently one called Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP), sponsored by the NIAID. The trial involved more than 600 infants considered to be at high risk for peanut allergy due to severe eczema, allergy to eggs, or both. It found that even infants who showed some peanut sensitivity via a skin prick test were much less likely to develop a peanut allergy by age 5 if they were given peanut-containing foods early in life than if peanuts were withheld.
You can read the full recommendations here.
Also see A Fresh Look at Peanut Allergies.