Every so often, medical research produces an unexpected finding that causes
a collective response of, “Whoa!”
Case in point: In early January of this year, the National Institute of
Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of the National
Institutes of Health, announced that introducing peanut-containing foods
to infants may help prevent the development of peanut allergy later in
This truly is exciting news. To quote NIAID’s official news release,
“Peanut allergy is a growing health problem for which no treatment
or cure exists. People living with peanut allergy, and their caregivers,
must be vigilant about the foods they eat and the environments they enter to avoid allergic reactions, which can be
severe and even life-threatening.”
I added the emphasis above, because any parent with a child with peanut
allergy can testify to the worries they endure every single day as they
try to shield their child from the vast array of foods containing peanuts
or peanut byproducts. As a pediatrician, I have witnessed firsthand their
worry, and can’t begin to imagine how emotionally draining it must be.
Underscoring the importance of the new research, NIAID Director Anthony
S. Fauci, M.D. noted that preventing peanut allergy “will improve
and save lives and lower health care costs,” and added that widespread
implementation of the new guidelines by health care providers will prevent
peanut allergy “in many susceptible children.”
Before going any further, I want to emphasize the importance of consulting
with your pediatrician before taking any actions based on the new guidelines,
which I’ve summarized below. Indeed, the guidelines were issued
for health care providers, so I can’t overstate the importance of
consulting with yours if you have a young child susceptible to peanut allergy.
The first guideline focuses on infants with severe eczema, egg allergy
or both and who are considered at high risk of developing peanut allergy.
For these children, it is recommended that peanut-containing foods be
introduced as early as 4 to 6 months old. Check with your pediatrician
before introducing any peanut products as he/she may recommend allergy
testing or seeing an allergist.
The second guideline targets children who have mild or moderate eczema.
It recommends introducing peanut-containing foods when they are about
6 months old.
The third and final guideline recommends introducing peanut-containing
foods at any time into the diets of infants who do not have eczema or
any food allergies.
Those are very brief overviews of the findings and new guidelines. I encourage
you to read more about this groundbreaking research at the
National Institutes of Health.
Peanut allergy is a serious health issue to millions of people in America
and around the world. As these exciting findings demonstrate, medical
research continues to unlock the mysteries of the human body – and
in so doing, ensure healthier lives and brighter futures for this generation
and those to come.