Researchers: Here's How to Prevent Peanut Allergies

Babies exposed to peanut products were much less likely to develop allergy by age 12
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2024 5:47 PM CDT
Researchers: Here's How to Prevent Peanut Allergies
"It can generally be said ‘the sooner the better’ for parents, especially in babies with eczema," Lack says.   (Getty Images/Sanny11)

Children exposed to peanuts very early on are much less likely to develop peanut allergy later in life, researchers say. A study published in the journal NJEM Evidence confirmed earlier research, but it tracked participants for longer than other studies, the Washington Post reports. It found that children who consumed peanut products in infancy and early childhood were 71% less likely to have developed the allergy by age 12, and researchers believe the protection could be lifelong.

  • "It is extremely unusual to see new onset of peanut allergy in adolescent years," study co-author Gideon Lack at King's College London tells the BBC. "This simple intervention will make a remarkable difference to future generations and see peanut allergies plummet."
  • "Peanut allergy develops very early in most children between six and 12 months of life," Lack tells CNN. "If you want to prevent a disease this needs to be done before the disease develops."

  • The researchers recommend introducing peanut products during infancy, possibly as early as 4 months, and continuing to give them to children regularly until they are 5. After that age, they said, it made less of a difference whether peanut products were consumed regularly.
  • The study found that 15.4% of children who had not been exposed to peanuts by age 5 developed peanut allergy, compared to 4.4% of those who had been exposed at a young age. Study co-author Michelle F. Huffaker from the University of California at San Francisco says the numbers are higher than in the general population because the study looked at children with eczema or egg allergy, who are at higher risk of peanut allergy.
  • The researchers said smooth peanut butter or peanut puffs can be introduced when a child is ready for solid food, but whole or chopped peanuts are a choking hazard for under-5s. Huffaker tells the Post that "there are a number of options, but plain old peanut butter mixed in warm water can work for a 4-month-old—it doesn't need to be anything fancier than that." Parents of high-risk children, however, should consult an allergist.
  • "Most babies will be able to start weaning between four and six months of age but each baby is an individual and needs to be assessed individually," Lack tells CNN. "Also, the foods should be given as a soft puree to facilitate swallowing and reduce the risk of choking. We do not recommend introducing solids before three months of age."
  • The BBC notes that advice on consuming peanuts has changed over the years—at one point, parents were advised not to give children peanut products before they were 3 years old. In 2017, the National Institutes of Health revised its guidelines to say children should consume peanut products well before their first birthday.
(More peanut allergy stories.)

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