Posted on Jan 17, 2017 2:41pm PST

Earlier this month, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), released new guidelines regarding peanut allergies. According to the report, the organization suggests that giving children peanut-based products at an earlier age rather than waiting until later in life may help in preventing the development of peanut allergies.

The new recommendation is a significant, 180 departure from previous medical advice, including guideline restrictions released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2000. These guidelines suggested that giving peanuts to children at too young of an age could put them at risk of severe and potentially life-threatening allergies.

Here are some important details about the new NIH guidelines:

  • New guidelines now recommend giving peanut-based products, such as butters or powders, to children based on their risk level and as early as several months old. Previous suggestions recommended waiting until children were older, such as 2 or 3 years of age.
  • The new recommendation for exposing younger children to peanut products was based on research that doing so can decrease the risk of having a peanut allergy growing up and through adulthood.

The new report includes three distinct sets of recommendations for parents based on their child’s risk for developing a peanut allergy. These include:

  • Highest Risk – Infants with severe eczema, a condition noted for causing red and inflamed patches of skin, face the highest risk of developing peanut allergies. The report suggests children highest at risk should be exposed to peanuts as early as 4 to 6 months old. High risk children should also be seen by specialists who can perform tests and control first exposures, if necessary.
  • Mild-to-Moderate Risk – Infants with mild to moderate eczema are still at risk of developing peanut allergies, but less so than babies with severe cases of the skin condition. According to the report, babies in this group can be introduced to peanut products around 6 months of age.
  • Lowest Risk – Babies with no eczema or allergies involving food are considered to be the lowest-risk group and can be exposed to peanuts at any time at home, or can wait until they are around 6 months.

The new guidelines come during a time when concerns about peanut allergies have been widely expressed, prompting many schools and public services to prohibit foods containing peanuts and requiring manufacturers to include nut allergy risks on labeling. Nut allergies among children have quadrupled in the past 13 years, and now affects roughly two percent of all Americans.

The new NIH report and study is being touted by many medical professionals as a solution that could potentially prevent thousands of kids from developing nut allergies. It has also led to the start of additional studies that test early exposure to tree nuts and eggs. Still, experts recommend that parents with any concerns – including parents with children highest at risk – speak to specialists about when to introduce peanuts to their child. You can read more about the new report and guidelines here.

Contact the Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia to Learn More

If you have questions about the new NIH guidelines, peanut or food allergies, or another other allergy-related issues, we invite you to contact the Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia today. Our Board Certified Specialists treat children and adults of all ages throughout the Atlanta area and beyond.