Peanut allergies in children have tripled since 1997, and continue to rise, according to national surveys. But there is good news: recent landmark studies (including the LEAP and EAT trials) have shown that up to 80% of peanut allergies can be avoided with the early introduction of peanuts in young infants.
Here’s what parents need to know about peanut allergy prevention:
- Consult Your Pediatrician: Discuss the new guidelines at your child’s next well visit, especially if your child has severe eczema. Don’t know where to start? Use this handy checklist of allergy prevention questions to ask your pediatrician.
- Start Early To Effectively Reduce Your Baby’s Risk: Starting at 4-6 months of age is likely more effective at reducing baby's risk of developing food allergies, but positive results have been seen in the studies for babies who started as late as 11 months of age. Studies suggest that delaying peanut introduction may put your child at a greater risk for developing a peanut allergy.
- Introduce Allergens When It’s Best For Your Baby: Parents should introduce allergenic foods when their baby is healthy and an adult can monitor for any signs of a reaction for at least 2 hours.
- Once Is Not Enough - Sustained Exposure Is Required for Several Months: Sustained introduction is just as important as early introduction. In recent landmark studies that resulted in 67-80% reduction in certain food allergies, participants sustained exposure multiple times a week for 3 to 6 months or more.
- Sustaining Exposure Can Be Hard: It’s common for parents to struggle with sustaining exposure because feeding infants is challenging. In fact, the EAT study was only able to achieve 50% compliance among participants, indicating that early and sustained introduction is difficult at such a young age.
With the rate of peanut allergy rising, it’s exciting that parents can hopefully reverse this trend through prevention and the proven benefits of early and sustained peanut introduction. Fortunately, there are many resources available for families, including these childhood food allergy prevention tips and a groundbreaking new solution to make early peanut, egg, and milk allergen introduction easy called Ready, Set, Food!
Katie Marks-Cogan, M.D. is a medical advisor for Ready, Set, Food!