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Guidelines Urge Earlier Peanut Intro for High-Risk Infants

Change in allergy recommendations based on results of groundbreaking trial

baby in highchair

THURSDAY, Jan. 5, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Infants at increased risk for peanut allergy should have peanut-containing foods added to their diets as early as 4 months of age, according to new U.S. clinical guidelines published in the January issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The new guidance is based on the pivotal clinical trial LEAP, funded by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and first published in 2015. The LEAP trial recruited over 600 babies who were considered to be at high risk of peanut allergy because they had severe eczema, egg allergy, or both. Half of the parents were randomly assigned to regularly give their baby peanut-containing foods, while the other half avoided peanuts. These diet regimens were continued until the children were 5 years old. By the age of 5, 13.7 percent of children in the peanut-avoidance group had developed a peanut allergy. That compared with just 1.9 percent of children who'd been exposed to peanuts early -- an 8.61 percent reduction.

The new guidelines break things down into three risk categories. Infants at high risk of peanut allergy should have peanut-containing foods introduced as early as 4 to 6 months of age, the guidelines say. Babies at moderate risk should start peanut-containing foods around the age of 6 months. For other babies, there is no specific recommendation on when or if to start peanut products. The bottom line is that parents should not fear the food, Alkis Togias, M.D., a researcher at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who helped write the new guidelines, told HealthDay.

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

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