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Nut-free home? New study calls delayed peanut exposure into question

Peanut allergies in children have become more common in recent years. While the cause for this increase is unclear, experts have generally recommended that parents avoid exposing their children to peanuts in infancy to reduce their chances of developing allergy. But a study published this week in New England Journal of Medicine is calling that recommendation into question.

Researchers in London selected a group of infants deemed at high risk for developing a peanut allergy – those with an egg allergy or eczema, for example. About half of these infants were fed regularly fed peanut-containing foods and the others were denied foods with peanuts until age five. The children who had eaten peanuts were much less likely to develop a peanut allergy than the children who avoided peanuts. 

What does this mean for feeding nuts to all babies? Experts say it’s too soon to say. While this study provides evidence in favor of earlier exposure to nuts, others say the results will need to be replicated with other populations before recommendations should change. Read more: scientificamerican.com/article/how-can-peanut-allergies-be-prevented.

Peanut allergies at school:

Peanut allergies can be life-threatening for children, so children who are affected by peanut allergies must be very careful about what they eat. That’s why many schools have policies about what foods can be brought into schools and where they can be consumed – to protect allergic children from exposure.

Sometimes, schools have nut-free zones – classrooms or sections of a lunchroom where peanut-allergic children can eat together. Other schools ban all nut-containing foods altogether.

In a 2014 NPCH Report, we asked parents how they think elementary schools should handle lunchtime for children with nut allergies. Less than 40% of parents were in support of a school-wide ban on nut-containing products. Among parents of children without nut allergies, 58% said schools should have nut-allergic children eat lunch in a designated area, such as a nut-free table. Almost half (47%) of parents of children with nut allergies said nut-allergic children should eat in the lunchroom with no restrictions on what other kids eat. Read the full report: Nut-free lunch? Parents speak out.

Parent views on how elementary schools should handle lunchtime for children with nut allergies
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What do you think?
What do you think schools should do to protect children with nut allergies? Share your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter @MottNPCH.