New Way to Prevent Peanut Allergies in Kids: But Would You Try It?

girl with peanut butter

Big news in the peanut allergy world today: a study has found that the best way to prevent peanut allergies in kids may not be to avoid peanuts like the plague, but the opposite -- feed kids peanuts early and often. These findings, counterintuitive as they may seem, could completely transform how parents prevent food allergies in children.


Talk about a total 180! In 2000, after all, with peanut allergies on the rise in kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics had advised parents to keep peanuts away from babies and toddlers to prevent potentially life-threatening allergic reactions. And understandably, many parents followed these orders to a tee since, well, peanut allergy reactions are life-threatening and best to be avoided! 

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Yet this study of 640 infants suggests that this abstinence approach could backfire. Researchers found that those who avoided peanuts up until five years of age were seven times more likely to end up with peanut allergies than those who ate peanuts at least three times a week.

These results support the so-called "hygiene hypothesis," which says that kids who grow up shielded from certain things are more likely to develop allergies to them later than kids who are exposed to these potential allergens on a regular basis.

While the AAP hasn't changed their stance on feeding peanuts to kids just yet, the study researchers suggest that could be coming down the pike. In the meantime, though, what's a mom to do? Feed their babies peanuts early on, putting them at risk for anaphylactic shock so that they can avoid this scenario later on?

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For Greenwich, CT mom of three Jacqueline Burt, this study alone isn't enough to convince her to relax her "no peanuts" rule once her newborn son Barrett starts eating solid food -- especially since she's had a peanut allergy scare in her past.

"My 9-year-old son Julian had a violent allergic reaction to peanuts around his first birthday when he accidentally got hold of a peanut M&M," she recalls, adding that he had to be taken to ER. "So, I feel like I'm still going to be skittish about giving peanuts to Barrett."

Yet other moms say this study would embolden them to introduce peanuts to their kids earlier than they might have otherwise.

"I see it as an amazing new 'early intervention' to prevent allergies," says Heather C., who has a peanut allergy herself, as does her 7-year-old daughter, Tessa. "If I had a newborn, I would definitely be asking my doctor if I could introduce peanuts in a safe way."

At the very least, Heather hopes this study may one day lead to solutions that will help older kids with food allergies like her daughter. "Having peanut allergies isn't the end of the world and safety measures have improved vastly since I was a kid," she says. "Still, it would be nice to not have to carry and EpiPen and constantly worry."

How did you feel about feeding peanuts to your young kids?


Image via Heder Zambrano/shutterstock

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