Here’s How You Can Prevent Children From Developing Peanut Allergies

January 5, 2017, 8:03 PM UTC
This Feb. 20, 2015, photo shows an arrangement of peanuts in New York. For years, parents of babies who seem likely to develop a peanut allergy have gone to extremes to keep them away from peanut-based foods. Now, a major study suggests that is exactly the wrong thing to do. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)
Photograph by Patrick Sison — AP

A group of top public health experts has unveiled new guidelines to help prevent children from developing a deadly peanut allergy.

The guidelines, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, incorporate findings from a recent study called the LEAP trial which concluded that introducing peanuts into young children can actually stop a peanut allergy from forming down the line. And the method can be most effective in children who would otherwise be at risk for developing a peanut allergy.

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National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci says that the new guidelines are meant to help spread the word about peanut allergy prevention and give parents and health care providers precise instructions on what to do. The guidelines were created by a team of experts from groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, and others.

So what are the recommendations? They fall into three separate buckets: the highest-risk children, such as those with severe asthma or an egg allergy (or both); medium-risk children, such as those with mild-to-moderate eczema; and the lowest risk children, who don’t have any of these medical issues or a family history of peanut allergies. The highest-risk children should be tested for a peanut allergy when they’re between four and six months old, and if they’re found not to have the allergy at that stage, they should be exposed to peanut-containing foods at the time. The lowest-risk children can eat peanut-containing foods at any age while moderate-risk children should be given these foods at six months.

An estimated 15 million Americans have food allergies, including one in 13 children, and the vast majority of them involve nuts.

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