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Early Exposure to Peanuts: A Pediatrician's Guide to Preventing Allergies


# Early Exposure to Peanuts: A Pediatrician's Guide to Preventing Allergies

Peanut allergies are one of the most common food allergies in children, and they can cause severe reactions. However, recent research has shown that early exposure to peanuts may help prevent the development of peanut allergies in children. Here's what you need to know:

## Understanding Peanut Allergies

Peanut allergies occur when the body's immune system mistakenly identifies peanut proteins as harmful¹. This can trigger a range of symptoms, from mild reactions like hives and nausea to severe conditions such as anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening¹.

## The Role of Early Exposure

Contrary to previous guidelines that recommended delaying the introduction of peanuts, new research suggests that early exposure to peanuts can actually help prevent peanut allergies¹³⁴.

The Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) trial revealed that early exposure to peanuts produced an 81% reduction in peanut allergy among high-risk children⁴. These children had already tested positive for other food allergies and/or had eczema⁴.

## Guidelines for Early Exposure

The new guidelines suggest introducing peanut-containing foods to infants around the time they begin eating other solid foods, typically 4 to 6 months of age³.

For infants at high risk for peanut allergy—those with severe eczema and/or egg allergy—parents should consult with their healthcare providers before introducing peanuts¹. These infants may need to undergo a blood or skin-prick test, and if they show signs of peanut sensitivity, peanuts should be introduced under the supervision of a doctor or allergist³.

It's important to note that whole peanuts should not be given to infants due to the risk of choking¹. Instead, parents can introduce peanut proteins through foods like peanut butter mixed into oatmeal⁴.

## Maintaining Regular Exposure

Once peanut-containing foods have been safely introduced, regular exposure is key to allergy prevention³. The guidelines recommend that infants, especially those at the greatest risk of allergies, consume about 2 grams of peanut protein (the amount in 2 teaspoons of peanut butter) 3 times a week³.

## Final Thoughts

While the prospect of preventing peanut allergies is promising, it's important to approach early peanut introduction with care and under the guidance of a healthcare provider, especially for high-risk infants¹³⁴. As always, the health and safety of your child should be the top priority.

Remember, every child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Always consult with your pediatrician or a pediatric allergist for personalized advice. Stay safe and healthy!.

Source: Conversation with Bing, 11/23/2023

(1) Peanut Allergy Prevention: Guidelines from the NIAID | AAFP. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2017/0715/p130.html.

(3) Can Early Exposure Fix Food Allergies? - WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/food-allergies-early-exposure.

(5) How to prevent peanut allergy in infants | UCLA Health. https://www.uclahealth.org/news/how-to-prevent-peanut-allergy-in-infants.

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