A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine provided strong evidence that early introduction of peanuts can play a role in preventing children from developing peanut allergy. Pediatric food allergist Dr. Kirsi Jarvinen-Seppo offers her takeaways from this landmark study, and provides insight into potential changes in future recommendations.
About the study: It followed 640 infants considered to be at high risk for peanut allergy because of their severe eczema or egg allergy. Half of the infants ate peanuts on a regular basis, and some avoided peanuts entirely for 5 years. The infants who avoided peanuts were seven times more likely to develop a peanut allergy than the infants who ate peanuts. The study did not evaluate children with no special risk for peanut allergy.
What it means: Doctors are excited about this data, because it signals a possible tool in the fight against peanut allergy, which has increased in recent years.
What parents should know: Though this study suggests that eating peanuts is a strong preventative against allergy, parents with high-risk infants (those with severe eczema, egg allergy or close relatives with peanut allergy) still need to be very cautious and should work with an allergy specialist to determine the right way to introduce peanuts into their child’s diet. This includes clinical evaluation and skin testing before giving children peanuts.
The guidelines: Some recommendations regarding peanuts and other common allergens have changed significantly over the course of the last 15 years, and some parents and pediatricians may not have all the updated information. New guidelines based on this study are currently being developed, and those who are concerned should contact an allergy specialist.
Kirsi Jarvinen-Seppo, M.D., is a pediatric food allergist and the director of the Center for Food Allergy at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital. The center offers evaluation for early introduction of peanuts.