A new food vaccine

By Charlyn Fargo

Think of it like a food vaccine – giving small amounts of peanuts to babies, ages 4 months old to a year may help prevent allergies from developing later.

That’s the latest recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Recent research shows that avoiding peanut products before allergies show up might make the problem worse.

The study, called the Learning Early About Peanut Allergy or LEAP trial, consisted of 640 high-risk United Kingdom infants between the ages of 4 and 11 months. Some consumed peanut products at least 3 times a week (6 g of peanut protein, which is equivalent to 24 g peanuts or 3 teaspoons of peanut butter per week); others completely avoided peanut products for the first 5 years of life.

The study included 542 infants found to have negative skin prick test (SPT) responses to peanut when the study started, and 98 infants with minimally positive SPT responses. An additional 76 children were excluded from study because they had very high likelihood of reacting to a peanut challenge.

The study found that the risk of early introduction in the first two groups was low. Only 7 of the 319 children reacted to peanut at the baseline food challenge and that was minimal. Results suggested that peanut food challenges and introduction, even in infants with minimally positive SPT responses, are safe and feasible. Six children in the consumption group had peanut allergy during the study, indicating that peanut allergy can still develop despite attempts at primary and secondary prevention.

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 said in an 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.

As always, check with your pediatrician first.

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