About six million young children in the U.S. suffer from food allergies—most commonly to peanuts. Pediatricians and allergy experts once agreed that the best solution was to avoid peanuts altogether, and for years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advised pregnant women with peanut allergies to stop eating peanuts while pregnant and to not feed peanuts to their children when they started on solid foods.
That changed in recent years, when two major studies proved that advice wrong. In one, the rate of peanut allergies was about 10 times lower for children who ate peanuts from an early age, compared to kids whose parents avoided giving their infants peanuts. Then, a rigorous trial in which young children were assigned to either eat peanuts early or avoid them showed again that kids who were introduced to peanuts when young had up to an 80% lower risk of developing peanut allergies than those who were not.
Based on those results, the AAP changed its advice for pregnant women about avoiding peanuts, recommending instead that women not avoid any particular groups of foods in the hopes of protecting their children from allergies. Now, the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has issued new guidelines to help doctors and parents adopt this new thinking. The advice, for introducing peanuts to infants in order to prevent peanut allergies, appears in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and immunology as well as on the NIAID website.
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