Sounds like PB&J’s could be making a return to school lunchrooms soon. New guidelines from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) released Thursday recommend that parents feed their babies and toddlers peanuts early and often as a way to prevent potentially life-threatening peanut allergies down the line.
The report stipulates that parents begin feeding peanuts to babies at 6 months old or younger by adding peanut powder or extract to purees, or diluting smooth peanut butter with warm water. (Whole peanuts should never be fed to infants or toddlers, as they present a choking hazard). For infants with severe eczema or egg allergy who are already deemed at high risk of developing peanut allergies, the NIAID recommends introducing peanuts as early as 4 months old (at the discretion of a pediatrician or allergy specialist). It’s advised that infants be introducted to other solid foods, first.
“Living with peanut allergy requires constant vigilance. Preventing the development of peanut allergy will improve and save lives and lower healthcare costs,” says NIAID director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci. “We expect that widespread implementation of these guidelines by healthcare providers will prevent the development of peanut allergy in many susceptible children and ultimately reduce the prevalence of peanut allergy in the United States.”
The new recommendations come from the research of an NIAID funded study, Learning Early About Peanut Allergy, (LEAP), which conducted randomized clinical trials on more than 600 infants at high-risk for developing peanut allergy. The results showed that routine peanut consumption from infancy to 5 years old led to an 81 percent reduction in the development of the allergy.