To Fight Peanut Allergies, Give Peanuts to Babies, Pediatricians Advise

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By Maggie Fox

It might be frightening and counter-intuitive advice, but giving peanut products to babies before they’re a year old may help prevent allergies from developing later, a pediatricians' group suggested Monday.

New guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics highlights recent research that shows completely avoiding peanut products before allergies show up might make the problem worse.

Really high-risk babies, such as those who have already shown an allergy to eggs, might need to have this done under a pediatrician’s supervision, the organization says in interim guidance issued Monday.

"There is now scientific evidence that health care providers should recommend introducing peanut-containing products into the diets of 'high-risk' infants early on in life (between 4 and 11 months of age) in countries where peanut allergy is prevalent because delaying the introduction of peanut can be associated with an increased risk of peanut allergy," the Academy says in its guidance.

Pediatricians can guide parents on which babies are high risk, the guidance notes.

"Peanut allergy is an increasingly troubling global health problem affecting between 1 percent and 3 percent of children in many westernized countries," the guidance document reads.

"Although multiple methods of measurement have been used and specific estimates differ, there appears to have been a sudden increase in the number of cases in the past 10- to 15-year period, suggesting that the prevalence might have tripled in some countries, such as the United States."

About 5 percent of U.S. children have food allergies, according to the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.