Food for Thought
Many of us can remember when almost every kid at school showed up with a lunch whose centerpiece was then a childhood rite of passage: the PB&J sandwich. Easy to prepare, nutritious and, best of all, delicious, it was a quick-fire solution for harried moms packing daily lunches. But today, because of the ubiquity of serious peanut allergies in children, most classrooms and even entire schools are "peanut no-fly zones," and it's not unusual for kids to have emergency epi pens at the ready.
Conventionally, experts have advised delaying introduction of peanut-containing foods to children in families with known or suspected peanut allergies until the toddler years. But in January, an expert panel sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, issued clinical guidelines based on new research that suggests children of infant age should be introduced to peanut-containing foods in order to prevent the development of peanut allergy.
The new Addendum Guidelines for the Prevention of Peanut Allergy in the United States is a supplement to the 2010 Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States. The addendum provides three separate guidelines for infants at various levels of risk for developing peanut allergy and is targeted to a wide variety of healthcare providers, including pediatricians and family-practice physicians.
"Living with peanut allergy requires constant vigilance. Preventing the development of peanut allergy will improve and save lives and lower health care costs," said NIAID director Anthony S. Fauci, MD. "We expect that widespread implementation of these guidelines by health care providers will prevent the development of peanut allergy in many susceptible children and ultimately reduce the prevalence of peanut allergy in the United States."
The addendum was prompted by clinical trial results reported in February 2015 that showed regular peanut consumption begun in infancy and continued until 5 years of age led to an 81% reduction in development of peanut allergy in infants deemed at high risk because they already had severe eczema, egg allergy or both. This finding came from the landmark NIAID-funded Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study, a randomized clinical trial involving more than 600 infants.
Download the new guidelines at www.niaid.nih.gov/sites/default/files/peanut-allergy-prevention-guidelines-parent-summary.pdf.