FRIDAY, March 23, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Though doctors recommend an early introduction to peanuts, many new moms prefer to delay giving them to their babies, researchers report.
Allergy experts now say that infants should be exposed to the allergen by the time they are 4 to 6 months old.
"Food allergies are scary, so it's understandable that parents would hesitate to introduce a food they might see as dangerous," said study co-author Dr. Edmond Chan. He is director of the allergy clinic at BC Children's Hospital at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
"Parents should consult with their pediatrician to help walk them through the process of early peanut introduction for their infant," Chan said.
For years, doctors instructed parents to delay exposing children to peanuts and other common food allergens, particularly those at high risk for peanut allergy. But this longstanding recommendation was reversed in 2017.
Why? Mounting evidence showed that introducing peanuts to high-risk babies early in life could help lower their risk of developing a peanut allergy. The updated guidelines were endorsed by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).
But the new survey of 1,000 pregnant women and 1,000 new mothers found that many are still hesitant to give their babies peanut products.
"The new guidelines are a breakthrough for preventing peanut allergy," Chan said. "But we're still working on helping parents and pediatricians understand how important the guidelines are for preventing peanut allergies."
The study, published March 19 in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, revealed that 53 percent of the women surveyed discounted the importance of the updated guidelines.
Study lead author Dr. Matthew Greenhawt said, "Since early peanut introduction is a relatively new idea, we were not surprised to find that more than half of those surveyed said following the guidelines was of no or limited importance." Greenhawt is chair of the ACAAI's Food Allergy Committee, and also co-director of the Children's Hospital Colorado Food Challenge Unit.
"We saw that, overall, 61 percent of respondents had no or minimal concern about their child developing a food allergy, and only 31 percent of respondents were willing to introduce peanut-containing foods before or around 6 months," he added in a journal news release.
In addition, the mothers were almost as reluctant to try to determine whether their child had a peanut allergy, the study authors said.
Only 49 percent of the women were willing to allow their babies to undergo a peanut allergy skin test, and only 44 percent were willing to have their child complete an oral food challenge for peanut allergy during their first year of life, the findings showed.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about peanut allergy.