Do you diligently avoiding feeding your baby peanuts in fear that he or she has an allergy to the food?
Turns out, you should do the opposite.
A new study on babies who have a high risk of becoming allergic to peanuts—meaning they already had eczema or an egg allergy—shows they are much less likely to develop the allergy if regularly fed foods that contain peanuts in the first year of life, as reported by NPR.
The study involved 640 British babies and found that those who consumed the equivalent of about 4 heaping teaspoons of peanut butter each week, starting when they were between 4 and 11 months old, were about 80 percent less likely to develop a peanut allergy by the age of 5 years.
"This is certainly good news," Gideon Lack of King's College London, who led the study, told NPR. He presented the research at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and it was also published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Lack said the study was inspired by the low rate of peanut allergies among children in Israeli, where it's typical to eat foods containing peanuts as a baby. The reverse is true in Britain and the United States, where parents often avoid peanuts.
"We've moved, really, 180 degrees from complete avoidance to we should give peanuts to young children actively," Lack said.
Peanut allergies can affect kids in many ways. Symptoms can be as mild as hives, while some suffer breathing and heart problems when coming into contact with the food. In the most tragic cases, the allergy can prove fatal.
If you suspect your child has an allergy to peanuts, be sure to get him or her tested for it before dishing out a bowl of the popular snack. And never give whole peanuts to a baby, but rather baby-safe foods that contain the nut.