Parents were once taught to avoid giving young children peanuts in an effort to prevent them from developing allergies, but results from a recent study suggest this approach may have the opposite effect. Instead, the National Institutes of Health is now urging parents to expose their children to age-appropriate forms of peanuts as early as four months old.

The new advice suggests that babies at high risk of peanut allergy, due to pre-existing eczema or an egg allergy, should be introduced to peanut-containing foods as early as 4 to six months of age, UPI reported. Babies at a moderate risk because of mild to moderate eczema should be given peanut containing foods at around six months of age. For all other babies, there is no specific recommendation of when to start, but parents are urged to not fear the food or hold off on introduction.

Read: Egg, Milk, And Peanut Allergies Can Be Prevented By Adding To Diet Before Age 1

"What we hope is that during the routine 4-month visit to the pediatrician, the doctor or the parents will bring this up," said Dr. Alkis Togias, a researcher involved in the study, UPI reported. "Then they can put together a plan for introducing peanut-containing foods."

For the study, the team of researchers recruited over 600 babies who were considered “high risk” for peanut allergies. The parents were randomly assigned to regularly give their babies peanut-containing food, while the other half avoided peanuts. This was continued until the children were five years old.

Results were dramatic, and revealed that babies who were given peanuts early on were significantly less likely to develop peanut allergies. By the age of 5, almost 14 percent of children in the peanut-avoidance group had developed a peanut allergy. On the other hand, just under 2 percent of children who'd been exposed to peanuts early developed the allergy.

Source: Togias A, Cooper SF, Acebal ML, et al. Addendum guidelines for the prevention of peanut allergy in the United States: Report of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases–sponsored expert panel. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology . 2017

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