Increasingly, research is emerging that tells us treating our infants and toddlers with “kid gloves” in terms of germs and allergens isn’t necessary the best for their health.
Along these lines, new recommendations by the National Institute on Allergies and Infectious Diseases say parents should introduce peanuts to infants early on to prevent the development of deadly peanut allergies.
“The allergy tends to develop in childhood and persist through adulthood,” the NIAID reported Thursday in a news release. “However, recent scientific research has demonstrated that introducing peanut-containing foods into the diet during infancy can prevent the development of peanut allergy.”
Peanut allergies are relatively common and a growing problem, as there is no cure for them. People with peanut allergies and those who care for them must be hyper-vigilant to avoid peanut-containing foods, which sometimes aren’t obvious. People who are allergic to peanuts not only have severe reactions when ingesting them, even in small amounts, but also they can die.
“Living with peanut allergy requires constant vigilance,” said NIAID Director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci. “Preventing the development of peanut allergy will improve and save lives and lower health care costs.”
Sometimes peanuts can be found where you might not expect them, such as inside enchiladas and egg rolls.
The new guidelines for the prevention of peanut allergies include infants at high risk of developing peanut allergies because they already have severe eczema, egg allergy, or both: “The expert panel recommends that these infants have peanut-containing foods introduced into their diets as early as 4 to 6 months of age to reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy,” per the news release. “Parents and caregivers should check with their infant’s health care provider before feeding the infant peanut-containing foods.”
Health care providers can perform blood tests to see if an infant has a peanut allergy or send the infant to a specialist for a skin prick test or “oral food challenge.” Those tests will determine a course of action for parents about how to slowly introduce peanuts into the diet.
A second guideline says infants with mild or moderate eczema “have peanut-containing foods introduced into their diets around 6 months of age to reduce the risk of peanut allergy.” Finally, infants without eczema or food allergies should have peanut-containing foods freely introduced even earlier on.
Let Kids Be Kids, Especially in the Dirt
Other studies have shown that simply letting your kids play and get dirty is good for them, as being exposed to microbes early in life allows for killer T-cells to develop in strong, persistent ways.
In a 2013 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, research showed that homes with dogs help protect children against allergens and asthma later in life.
“The dog dust likely leads to the growth of many different types of bacteria in the gut,” Healthline News reported.
“The long-term aim is to leverage these studies to develop refined communities of bacteria that can be used therapeutically to treat or prevent against allergic asthma in humans,” Healthline quoted scientist Susan Lynch of University of California, San Francisco, as saying.
A professional journalist nearly 30 years, David Heitz started his career at the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa before moving to Los Angeles. He led the Glendale News-Press to best small daily newspaper in the state (CNPA) as managing editor and also worked as executive news editor of the Press-Telegram. He worked briefly as deputy news editor of the Detroit News before returning to the Quad-Cities, where he has worked as a freelance medical writer since 2012 for several national websites. He recently purchased his childhood home and says he truly is “living the dream.”