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Peanut Allergy Research Produces a 'Whoa!' Moment

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 children’s development.

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.

Meet the Author

Meigan Everts, MD, FAAP

Specialty: Pediatrics

Dr. Everts believes quality pediatric care occurs from birth through adolescence. According to her, “I like to take care of the whole person, understanding the physical, mental and social aspects of my patients. This helps me get a complete picture of how best to care for them. Most of all, I value building relationships and encouraging healthy two-way communication with my patients." View Bio [+]