Many parents dread giving their children peanuts for the first time out of fear that they could be among the more than 2% of Americans who are allergic – a condition that can quickly manifest into life-taking anaphylaxis, said David Erstein, a board certified allergist and founder of Assured Bites.
He explained that many parents may be tempted to put off introducing their children to peanuts to avoid a potential reaction, but new research suggests this strategy could actually do more harm than good.
Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015 found introducing children at high risk of an allergy to peanuts before 11 months of age reduced their risk of developing a peanut allergy by a staggering 70% to 80%. A more recent follow-on study confirmed the results.
The Enquiring About Tolerance study presented earlier this year supported a similar benefit even among the general population, Erstein added.
The findings, while persuasive together, go against the longstanding practice to hold off introducing peanuts to children until they are 3 years old – a guideline retracted by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2008, but which lingers in many parents’ minds.
How Hello, Peanut! helps
The Hello, Peanut! Introduction System, created by Assured Bites, helps parents reconcile their fears with emerging research by allowing them to gradually and methodically increase the amount of peanut their child consumes over a seven day period. Each day, parents simply mix a pre-measured packet of peanut and sprouted oat blend into their children’s food and monitor their reaction. As the days increase, so does the dose.
If there is no reaction, parents can continue to give children “maintenance packets” of the peanut blend three times a week for several weeks or until an infant can eat peanut in spread or whole form, according to the company.
In addition to alleviating parents from needing to measure each dose, the system is not a choking hazard the way peanut butter and whole peanuts can be, Erstein said.
The other benefit of the introductory method is that by slowly increasing the dose each day, if a child does have a reaction then parents and providers can more easily identify the threshold for triggering a reaction, which can help with prevention and therapy, Erstein said.
He was quick to add, however, that Hello, Peanut! is not a treatment for peanut allergies and should not be used without guidance from a pediatrician if children are at high risk of an allergy.
A first but not the only peanut product for infants
Hello, Peanut! is the first product of its kind to hit the market, and while there are peanut puffs and cereals to help with introducing the ingredient “we feel our product is more helpful and thoughtful,” Erstein said.
Still, it likely is only a matter of time before more introductory peanut products are launched now that more research advocates for earlier sampling of the ingredient.
Promoting through providers
Assured Foods currently sells the product on its website and soon will sell it on Amazon, Erstein said.
For now, he is promoting the product through pediatricians, even though it does not require a prescription. He explained physicians can help reassure parents about the process and answer any questions they might have.