Earlier this year, a study showed that feeding infants some peanut products during their first year of life can help them build tolerance to many nut allergies and even prevent many nut allergies. This runs counter to what we have been taught and frankly seems completely illogical. Giving my infant something that could cause a potentially dangerous allergic reaction? Fine.
But cautious parents beware: In a consensus posted online Monday, the American Association of Pediatric Societies and nine other medical professional organizations expressed support for the study. The American Academy of Pediatrics endorsement reads in part: “There is now scientific evidence that health care providers in countries where peanut allergy is prevalent should recommend the inclusion of peanut-containing products in the diet of ‘high-risk’ infants early in life (4 to 11 months), because delaying the introduction of peanuts can increase the risk of peanut allergy.”
The study, conducted in England and published in February in the New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted on 640 high-risk infants aged 4 to 11 months. (Infants who developed severe eczema or egg allergy in the first six months of life were considered to be at high risk for nut allergy.) One group of infants consumed small amounts of peanut butter or peanut butter products, while a second group avoided them altogether. Fast forward five years and the group that ate nut products had 81 percent more nut allergies than the group that did not eat peanut butter.
The endorsement by the American Academy of Pediatrics adds credibility to the study and will hopefully provide some comfort to parents of infants at risk for nut allergies. There is no doubt that the concern is real: The number of children with peanut allergies is on the rise in many Western countries, affecting between 1 and 3 percent of children. In the United States, the number of affected children has probably tripled in the last 10 to 15 years, according to this statement. Allergic reactions spread throughout the body, from itchy rashes, runny noses and vomiting to allergic reactions, drops in blood pressure and difficulty breathing in children. (Oops!)
It’s worth noting that the American Academy of Pediatrics stresses the importance of relying on your pediatrician’s guidance before you eat nuts, especially if your child is considered at high risk.
Has the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsement changed the way you introduce peanut products to your baby? Let us know! Don’t forget to sign up to receive our free Parent’s Daily Baby Newsletter.
Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow, a writer and editor in New York City, traded her Blackberry and Metro cards for a playdate schedule and pb & j sandwiches, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch her spunky, fun-loving son grow up.