Contribute Try STAT+ Today

Exposing infants to peanuts and eggs might prevent them from developing food allergies later in life. And you might not need to keep exposing children to those foods continuously, new research finds.

Why it matters:

The idea of exposing babies to allergens has been gaining popularity since a study last year found it effective with peanuts in kids who were predisposed to peanut allergies. One new study, published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirmed the approach works in all children, with both peanuts and eggs. The other new study found that many kids exposed to peanuts at a young age remained free of food allergies even if they got a break from the peanuts for a year at age 5.

You’ll want to know:

New guidelines for pediatricians are on the way from the National Institutes of Health. The draft says, in a nutshell, that babies should start eating peanut products when they’re 4 to 6 months old, said Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, a pediatric allergist at Children’s Hospital Colorado who helped write the document.

advertisement

But keep in mind:

This approach doesn’t necessarily work for all allergens. Researchers tested early exposure to milk, wheat, sesame, and fish and couldn’t find conclusive evidence that it worked.

Another red flag: Fewer than half the parents in one study stuck with the regimen of exposing their babies to allergens. That could indicate that the children had negative reactions to the foods, pediatrician Dr. Gary Wong wrote in an accompanying editorial.

advertisement

The bottom line:

Doctors say that these studies demonstrate the early introduction of peanuts and eggs is not harmful  and could even help children.