Introducing peanuts to your child’s diet

A recent study completed by a number of Sydney Children’s Hospital Network researchers is encouraging parents to introduce egg and peanuts to their child early to prevent food allergies.

The study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia says these foods should be introduced in the first year of life at around six months of age – even if the child is at high risk.

Lead author on the study, Dr Preeti Joshi  said these new findings aimed to prevent some of the most common food allergies in children.

“Food allergy has been increasing in incidence worldwide, with rates in Australia among the highest in the world,” she said.

“The Melbourne-based HealthNuts study reported 10 per cent of infants under one year of age had a challenge proven food allergy. Egg and peanut had an incidence of 8.9 per cent and 3.0 per cent, respectively.”

The study involved randomised testing of 640 children between four and 11 months of age with severe eczema, egg allergy, or both, to either consume or avoid peanuts until the child was 5.

After this - a peanut oral food challenge was conducted. Among the 540 infants in the intention-to-treat group with a negative skin prick test result, the prevalence of peanut allergy at 5 years old was 13.7 per cent in the avoidance group and 1.9 per cent in the consumption group.

“Based on these findings… if infants already have an egg allergy or severe eczema, they are at increased risk of peanut allergy,” Dr Joshi said.

“The guidelines recommend that parents should introduce peanut before 12 months (but not before four months) and suggest discussing how to do this with the child’s doctor.”

It is hoped that these findings will assist in decreasing the prevalence of allergies in Australian children.

The study also stated that it no longer recommended the use of hydrolysed formula for the prevention of allergic diseases in children.