These days, most new parents are hesitant to give their kids peanuts for fear of an allergic reaction. But doctors are now saying that you should just bite the bullet...
Earlier this week, a new study was released that encourages parents to introduce peanuts into their child's diet before they reach a year old. After decades of being told to avoid peanuts, many are wondering -- what changed?
Today, peanut allergies affect roughly two percent of children in the U.S. Although that number may sound low, it's a big jump from the 0.4 percent reported in 1997. Compared to other countries, the U.S. waits longer to introduce peanuts to kids, and experiences peanut allergies at much higher rates.
To find out if there was a connection, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases teamed up with the Immure Tolerance Network. Together, they conducted a clinical trial called Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP). What they found came as a surprise.
At the same time that parents have avoided introducing peanuts to their children's diets, rates of peanut allergies have risen dramatically. The issue has become so serious that many school cafeterias have banned peanut products completely.
However, in Israel, many kids under the age of one eat peanut butter and other foods containing peanut flour. Bamba, which can be described as a peanut-flavored Cheeto, is a favorite snack among kids and parents alike. Could delaying the introduction of peanuts be causing more Americans to develop allergies?
According to LEAP, the answer is yes. By studying more than 600 children for their first six years of life, they found that early introduction of peanuts reduced the risk of developing an allergy by as much as 80 percent.
That said, parents should not take this information and immediately feed their kids a huge helping of peanuts. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained to CNN, LEAP's recommendations for introducing kids to peanuts fall into three categories.
1. Kids with egg allergies, severe asthma, or both.
These children have a heightened risk for developing a peanut allergy. Rather than trying to introduce peanuts at home, parents are encouraged to visit an allergist or other medical professional. There, the child will receive a blood test or skin prick test to see if they are allergic.
2. Kids with moderate to severe eczema.
Although children with moderate to severe eczema are less likely than those with asthma or egg allergies to develop a peanut allergy, parents are urged to wait until at least six months of age to add peanuts to their diet.
3. Kids with no eczema, allergies, or family history of food allergies.
LEAP says it's okay to feed these children peanuts at any age. Fauci says if they have a minor reaction, such as a diaper rash, lay off the nuts and try again in six months. Of course, if the reaction is severe, seek medical attention immediately.