New Peanut Allergy Guidelines May Be Different Than Anything You've Heard Before

| Diet & Nutrition
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If you have young children, chances are you waited to introduce them to peanuts. Traditional wisdom (according to the American Academy of Pediatrics guidlines in 2000) was to wait until your child was three years old or older to feed them any peanut-containing foods. After all, the amount of Americans (especially children) with peanut allergies has tripled in recent years.

However, in an age when most schools ban peanut products and manufacturers are required to label if products contain peanuts or were made in a facility that uses peanuts, scientists have done a complete 180 in their stance on peanut allergies.

In new guidelines released Thursday by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it is recommended that parents (or pediatricians or allergists) introduce peanuts to their children as infants — depending on the child's risk factor.

If broadly implemented, the new guidelines have the potential to dramatically lower the number of children who develop one of the most common and lethal food allergies, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the institute’s director, who called the new approach “game changing.”

The guidelines divide a child's risk factor into three sections: High risk if the child has eczema, an egg allergy, or both; medium risk if the child has mild to moderate eczema; and low risk if the child has no eczema or food allergies.

Depending on the child's risk factor is when parents should introduce their child to peanuts. 

Children at high risk should see an allergy specialist, who might perform a blood or skin test, at 4-6 months before they are exposed to peanuts. The specialist should recommend how and when to best implement peanuts into the child's diet.

Children in the middle group should be fed peanuts at home when they are 6 months old.

Children at low risk can be fed peanuts any time at home, but can typically start around 6 months as well.

Whole peanuts obviously being a choking hazard to an infant, peanuts should be introduced in a puréed form that contains peanut powder or extract.

What do you think? Will you be introducing your young children to peanuts earlier? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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