A British study suggests that an early exposure to peanut products dramatically cuts the risk of allergy.
Doctors found that exposing at risk infants to peanuts before their first birthday lower the risk of developing a peanut allergy.
Trials on 628 babies prone to developing peanut allergy found the risk was cut by over 80%.
The King’s College London researchers said it was the “first time” that allergy development had been reduced.
Specialists said the findings could apply to other allergies and may change diets around, but warned parents not to experiment at home.
The trial, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, focused on babies as young as four months who had already developed eczema – an early warning sign of allergies.
Skin-prick tests were used to identify those who had not yet developed peanut allergy or had only a very mild response.
Children under five should not eat whole peanuts, because of the risk of choking, so half were given a peanut-based snack. The other half continued avoiding peanuts.
The trial indicated that for every 100 children, 14 would normally go on to develop an allergy by the age of five.
This fell by 86% to just two out of every 100 children with the therapy.
Even the children who were already becoming sensitive to peanuts benefited. Their allergy rates fell from 35% to 11%.
Until 2008, at-risk families were told to actively avoid peanut products and other sources of allergic reactions.
The study findings have attracted excited responses from other doctors, and there is speculation similar approaches might work with other allergies, such as egg protein.
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