Preventing peanut allergy should now start in infancy

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued clinical guidelines to help prevent the development of peanut allergy in infants and children. The new guidelines, developed by an expert panel, advise introducing peanuts to children’s diets as early as possible to protect them against developing peanut allergies later in life.

The guidelines come as growing research evidence suggests early, frequent exposure is the best approach to prevention. However, this advice directly contradicts previous guidelines which advised avoidance of exposure to peanuts by infants and young children and delaying the introduction of peanuts until at least three years of age.

The latest publication provides three separate guidelines for infants at various levels of risk for developing peanut allergy and is targeted to a wide variety of health care providers, including pediatricians and family practice physicians.

  • Guideline 1 focuses on infants deemed at high risk of developing peanut allergy because they already have severe eczema, egg allergy or both. The expert panel recommends that these infants have peanut-containing foods introduced into their diets as early as 4 to 6 months of age to reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy.
  • Guideline 2 suggests that infants with mild or moderate eczema should have peanut-containing foods introduced into their diets around 6 months of age to reduce the risk of peanut allergy.
  • Guideline 3 suggests that infants without eczema or any food allergy have peanut-containing foods freely introduced into their diets.

In all cases, infants should start other solid foods before they are introduced to peanut-containing foods.

Visit the NIH website for further information, media reports and access to the new Guidelines.