Most babies should start eating peanut-containing foods well before their first birthday, say guidelines released Thursday that aim to protect high-risk tots and other youngsters from developing the dangerous food allergy. The new guidelines from the National Institutes of Health mark a shift in dietary advice, based on landmark research that found early exposure dramatically lowers a baby's chances of becoming allergic, reports the AP. The recommendations spell out exactly how to introduce infants to peanut-based foods and when—for some, as early as 4 to 6 months of age—depending on whether they're at high, moderate, or low risk of developing one of the most troublesome food allergies, which affects 2% of US children.
Babies at high risk—with a severe form of eczema or egg allergies—need a checkup before any peanut exposure, and they might need to get their first taste in the doctor's office. For other tots, most parents can start adding peanut-containing foods to the diet following other solids, usually around 6 months. No, babies don't get whole peanuts or a big glob of peanut butter—those are choking hazards. Instead, the guidelines include options like watered-down peanut butter or peanut-flavored "puff" snacks. The guidelines are partly based on a 2015 NIH-funded study of 600 that found just 2% of peanut eaters, including 11% of those at highest risk, had become allergic by age 5, compared to 14% and 35% of peanut avoiders, respectively. (Read more food allergies stories.)