Vancouver – Experts advise that consumption of peanut-based products at an early age reduces the risk of peanut allergy.
The new guidelines were published today by an international expert panel including the sole Canadian representative, Dr. Edmond Chan, director of the Allergy Clinic at BC Children’s Hospital and head of the Division of Allergy and Immunology and Clinical Associate Professor in the UBC Department of Pediatrics.
The panel found it is particularly important for “high-risk” infants – those with severe eczema or egg allergy – to consume peanut-based products suitable for infants between four and six months of age, though they should be tested for a possible reaction prior by seeing a specialist, and if not available a family physician. Infants who have no risk, low risk or moderate risk for allergy – the vast majority – should ingest a peanut-based product around six months of age at home, and do not need to be tested beforehand. A good opportunity for parents to review these recommendations with their physician would be at a well-baby check up in the first few months of life, before introducing solids.
“These new guidelines may be a surprise to parents who have been cautioned about feeding peanut-based products to infants," said Dr. Chan. “This has probably led to more peanut allergies. Feeding peanut-based products to children around six months is the best way to prevent an allergy to peanut.”
The new guidelines also include recommendations for preparing non-choking peanut foods suitable for infants, including peanut butter mixed with pureed fruit and vegetables or dissolved in water, or peanut flour or peanut butter powder mixed with pureed fruit and vegetables.
“I can understand parents’ fears – they hear about children having severe reactions, or about parents having to carry EpiPens, and figure that it’s better to be safe than sorry,” said Dr. Chan. “But the safer thing to do is to prevent peanut allergy by feeding them peanut-based products by the sixth month and giving those products regularly thereafter.”
Dr. Chan was asked to join the panel because his research and advocacy work, spanning almost a decade, helps change the mindset about early peanut introduction. He also assisted in earlier guidelines from Canadian and worldwide professional groups that have been echoed in the guidelines publishing today.
• The panel was organized by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases after a rigorous 2015 study showed that early introduction of peanuts-based products in high-risk infants dramatically reduced the risk of developing peanut allergy by age five.
Watch this video
for more information from Dr. Edmond Chan and Andrea Stephens.
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