I say this as a sufferer: Peanut allergies are the worst. I learned I was allergic to peanuts when I was 13 years old, and although my allergy isn't severe, I choose not to bring peanuts or peanut products into my house. As a result, I was unable to expose my son to peanuts earlier in his life.
I'm hardly alone though. While the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) recommends parents give their babies peanut-based pureed or finger food before six months as a way to avoid life-threatening peanut allergies, many mamas still don't.
That may soon change as this week the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidelines on the prevention of allergies, and the new guidelines suggest the early introduction of foods like peanuts, along with other allergenic foods like eggs and fish.
"There is no reason to delay giving your baby foods that are thought of as allergens like peanut products, eggs or fish," the report's co-author, Dr. Scott Sicherer, explains in a statement. "These foods can be added to the diet early, just like foods that are not common allergens, like rice, fruits or vegetables."
The updated recommendations follow a study published last year in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology which found that a majority of new moms and moms-to-be surveyed are still hesitant to serve up peanuts, despite endorsement from NIAID the American Academy of Pediatrics in January 2017.
"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," said that study's lead author Matthew Greenhawt, an allergist and chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology's Food Allergy Committee.
To be exact, 53% of respondents said they were wary of recommendations to try early peanut introduction, according to the survey results. Researchers also discovered that, overall, 61% of women surveyed said they weren't that concerned with their child developing a food allergy. Only 31% of participants said they would be willing to try early introduction, the survey found.
About 3 million people in the United States have an allergy to peanuts or tree nuts. In fact, a peanut allergy is the most common allergy among food allergic children, according to Food Allergy Research & Education. The NIAID and the AAP say early exposure to peanuts could significantly decrease the chances of your baby developing a nut allergy.
According to the guidelines, parents of babies who are at low risk developing peanut allergies are encouraged to try peanuts at home, while babies at high risk for a peanut allergy (those who have severe eczema or an egg allergy) should have peanut skin testing first, and depending on the results they can try peanuts as an oral food challenge at their specialist's office.
As someone with a peanut allergy, I totally get why parents would hold off on introducing legumes at such an early age. But there's evidence to show that early introduction can have tremendous benefits in the long-term. Eat up.
[A version of this post was originally published March 22, 2018. It has been updated.]