New peanut allergy recommendations for babies

For years, parents of babies at high-risk of developing a peanut allergy have been told to hold off feeding them peanut-containing foods.

Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics is changing its tune. It's a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics; they're now recommending the introduction of peanuts into the diets of high-risk infants in a new policy statement.

Dr. Brian Schroer is a pediatric allergist at Cleveland Clinic Children's.

"It's an important move because it's one of the holy grails of medicine to prevent a disease," said Schroer. "In this case by having kids eat peanuts, if they're not already allergic, they were able to prevent a significant number of kids from becoming allergic to peanuts." 

Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies in the United States. It's also the leading cause of fatal or near-fatal food reactions. Those reactions can range from itching in the mouth and throat to full airway closure within minutes.

The new recommendation to introduce peanuts early on is based on a study that found exposure to peanuts early in life may help build tolerance against the life-threatening allergy.

The study also shows that a child may become allergic to peanuts by avoiding them. The AAP says it's best to introduce high risk kids to peanuts between 4 and 11 months old.

Schroer says parents can introduce peanuts safely by dissolving peanut butter or puffs in milk, water or baby cereal.  However, he recommends parents use caution with some kids.

"In any kids who have any significant eczema or history of other food allergies, they really should see their allergist and have skin testing to peanuts done before they introduce the peanut at home," he said.

The recommendations are meant to guide physicians and parents until more extensive guidelines can be developed sometime next year.  The full statement can be found online in the journal pediatrics.