Last month’s announcement from The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a division of the National Institutes of Health, was a real game changer. Their new guidelines means that every pediatrician and children’s health care provider will be monitoring the early introduction of peanut products to infants in order to prevent the development of peanut allergy, and parents now have a timeline for when peanut products should be introduced.
The guidelines were developed in part based on the ground-breaking Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study, co-sponsored by the National Peanut Board (NPB), which was published in 2015. The LEAP study showed that introducing peanut-containing foods to infants at high risk for developing peanut allergy was safe and led to an 81 percent relative reduction in the subsequent development of peanut allergy.
Peanut producers, through the NPB, are to be commended for charging toward this issue with a vengeance in an attempt to find what causes peanut allergy and to prevent peanut allergy in as many people as possible.
Bob Parker, NPB president and CEO, said, “The Board has invested more than $21 million in peanut allergy research, outreach and education since its inception and launched a successful peanut allergy awareness and education initiative in 2014. The guidelines represent a strong step forward in helping us all manage peanut allergies more effectively.
As foods are introduced to babies, the guidelines include options such as adding a small amount of peanut butter to flavor rice cereal or easy-to-gum peanut-flavored “puff” snacks.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which appointed experts to turn the research findings into user-friendly guidelines, said, “It’s an important step forward. When you do desensitize them from an early age, you have a very positive effect.”
With this paradigm shift from delayed to early introduction of peanuts to prevent peanut allergy, we can all hope in four or five years the incidence of a child being allergic to peanuts is indeed rare.