USA – A panel of experts sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has released new guidelines for reducing the risk of peanut allergies in children.

The panel, which included National Eczema Association, recommended giving children 6 months and younger peanut-containing foods under the direction of a pediatrician or an allergist.

“This is big news for parents who have infants with eczema,” says Julie Block, president and CEO of the National Eczema Association and a participant on the NIAID panel.

“We don’t yet know why some children with eczema develop peanut allergies, but we now know that we can significantly reduce the number of new cases by introducing peanut-based foods early in life.”

The NIAID panel released the following guidelines for parents:

  • Never give infants or young children whole peanuts due to the risk of choking;
  • Introduce other solid foods into your child’s diet before introducing peanut-based foods;
  • Consult with your child’s health care provider or an allergist before starting peanut-based diet changes. This is particularly important if your child has severe eczema or an egg allergy;
  • If your infant has severe eczema and/or egg allergies, you can begin introducing peanut-containing foods as early as 4 to 6 months of age;
  • If your child has mild to moderate eczema, you can begin introducing peanut-containing foods around 6 months of age;
  • If your child has no eczema or egg allergies, you can freely introduce peanuts into his or her diet when you begin to give other solid foods.

The NIAID panel based these recommendations on the result of a clinical trial with more than 600 infants considered high risk of developing a peanut allergy.

At the end of five years, the group of children who were fed peanut-containing foods early in life were significantly less likely to develop a peanut allergy.

Peanut allergies can range from mild to very severe and in some cases, life-threatening. Children with severe eczema and/or an egg allergy are at higher risk of developing a peanut allergy.