Peanut allergies are a leading cause of death from food allergies in the United States and the new guidelines aim to alter this statistic by helping babies get an early taste that will make severe allergic reactions less likely.
"Living with peanut allergy requires constant vigilance", NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci said.
"If you try to get a peanut or peanut butter and they won't take it, that's okay".
"These new guidelines contradict what many parents have been hearing - that they should be cautious about feeding peanut foods to infants", said Chan.
The confusion was compounded by a recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that children at risk of developing a food allergy avoid certain foods until they were older that was widely misinterpreted so that even parents of low-risk infants became overly cautious.
"They identified about 600 infants, divided them in half, half were fed, half avoided and what they saw was that after 5 years of eating peanut fairly regularly, the group that was fed compared to those that weren't had far less peanut allergies".
An infant is considered high risk of developing peanut allergy if they also have severe eczema and/or an egg allergy.
But Henderson, who is now a supply teacher in Vancouver, said she is encouraged to hear there are new guidelines that could reduce peanut allergies in children.
Infants are seen as being at high risk for developing peanut allergy when they already suffer from egg allergy, severe eczema, or both.
Infants should always be started on other foods which are solid prior to being introduced to foods which contain peanuts. It is hoped these new guidelines will help young ones develop resistance to peanut allergies.
Dr. G. Daniel Brooks, an allergist at the Asthma and Allergy Center in Bellevue, said the implications of being able to reduce the number of people who have allergies are huge, particularly if the new guidelines can achieve the same reduction reported in the research on a broader basis.
The guidelines don't call for babies to be given peanuts or peanut butter because they are choking hazards. The recommended guidelines for the early introduction of foods which contain peanuts should be followed.
Findings of recent studies, however, suggest that exposing children to allergy-causing food items early may actually reduce their risk of developing allergies to these later in life.
"With the NIH coming out with these guidelines, we can feel more confident talking with parents", she said. Based on test results, introduce peanut-containing foods at 4 to 6 months. They should start peanut-based foods around 6 months, at home.
When you introduce the product to the child early on, generally around six months, it acts similar to a vaccine in that it aids in building an immunity to the allergen.