New allergy guidance: Most kids should try peanuts

Even children with the highest risk of having a peanut allergy should be tested with a tiny dose of the nut because it might prevent the allergy from ever developing, doctors said in new guidelines released Thursday.

Most kids should get a small taste of peanut protein by the time they are 6 months old, and they should get regular doses if they don't have an allergic reaction. Those at highest risk should be tested in a specialist's office.

"We actually want all children to have peanut introduced," Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, an allergy specialist at Children's Hospital Of Colorado, told NBC News.

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Peanuts and peanut products

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Tree nuts

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Cow's milk

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Eggs

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Wheat

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Soy

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Fish

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Shellfish

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It's a big change from previous guidelines, which recommended that people keep peanuts and peanut products away from their kids completely until they are 3 years old if there is a risk of allergies.

The new guidelines from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and other groups follow up on findings that giving peanut to kids early enough in life can train their immune systems so they don't overreact and cause a dangerous allergic reaction.

"Living with peanut allergy requires constant vigilance. Preventing the development of peanut allergy will improve and save lives and lower health care costs," NIAID Director Dr. Tony Fauci said in a statement.

The new guidelines say most babies can try a little peanut paste or powder — never whole peanuts — at home.

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High-risk infants are defined as those with severe eczema or an egg allergy. Those babies should be tested at a specialist's office when they're 4 to 6 months old and have started taking solid food.

The specialist can watch the infant to make sure nothing dangerous happens when they get a little dose of peanut. The benefits can be enormous.

"We know that these children with severe eczema and or egg allergy had about an 80 percent reduced chance of developing peanut allergy if peanut was introduced between four to 11 months of life," Greenhawt said.

"That's a whole generation of children who never have to develop this allergy."

More from NBC News: Feeding Kids Peanuts Prevents Allergies

Even if they have a sensitivity to peanuts, they may not be fully allergic and being fed a small dose of peanut may help prevent the allergy from ever developing, according to the new guidelines.

It may scare parents, but it shouldn't, Greenhawt said.

"We believe the process to be very, very safe," he said. In a study published last year, none of the infants given tiny doses of peanut protein had severe allergic reactions.

Moderate-risk infants are those with mild to moderate eczema. They can be fed a little peanut-containing food at home without a doctor's help, according to the guidelines being published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and elsewhere.

Low-risk children with no egg allergy or evidence of eczema can get peanut-containing foods when parents decide but they should get some by the age of 6 months, after they start solid foods.

Whole peanuts can choke small children and no child under the age of 4 should get whole peanuts, the groups cautioned.

Kelly Schreiner of Marble Hill, Missouri tried it with her daughter Camden, who's 2 years old. Her older brother Zach, now 3, had a peanut allergy he later outgrew and Camden had an egg allergy, so Schreiner was worried.

But it worked. Camden got a little peanut in the allergist's office and she never developed a peanut allergy.

More from NBC News: Peanut Patches can Help Prevent Allergies

"It's important to me as a mom so that my kids can go through life without having to constantly watch what they eat," Schreiner told NBC News. "They can eat anything. They can eat peanut butter. We don't have to constantly be reading labels."

The new guidelines say family history is not a risk factor. Just because a child has a sibling or other relative with a peanut allergy does not mean he or she is at high risk, the NIAID and other groups said.

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1. Break up with bread

Dr. Lipman is a big advocate of eating little to no gluten. So why cut it out? “Wheat is not your friend,” writes Dr. Lipman. “It’s addictive and an appetite stimulant, and the gluten it contains can make you sick.” Easier said than done, but Dr. Lipman swears that once you make it a priority to stop eating bread you’ll find plenty of yummy alternatives—and you can still have your favorite comfort foods.

2.  Do intervals! (AKA exercise like kids play)

Think about how you played outside as a kid. Were you running super fast while playing tag for five minutes and then slowing down for ten—then doing it all over again? That’s called interval training. And our bodies really like it.

“We’re built to chase down prey and then stop. To run from danger and then stop,” writes Dr. Lipman. “The long-held belief that we need to elevate the heart rate with 30 minutes of sustained activity is being replaced….” There’s lots of evidence that intervals burn more calories, too.

3. Don’t look at any screens one hour prior to bedtime

This is one of Dr. Lipman biggest secrets for a getting a good night’s sleep—no mindlessly flipping through Instagram, answering email, or even watching Netflix an hour before shuteye. In fact, he wants you to put the iPhones and laptops out of reach. “Tuck in your devices in another room to keep the eerie charging lights away from your sleep zone. If you can’t, use an eye mask,” he writes. It messes with your body’s production of melatonin.

4. Swear off sugar

If you can only make one change, “let it be a drastic reduction in the amount of sugar you eat,” writes Dr. Lipman, who 

 called sugar the “devil” in our 2015 Wellness Trends report. Why should you cut it out? Because it raises your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Oh, and gives you breakouts.

5. Learn this chill out yoga pose

If your to-do list resembles the Dead Sea Scrolls and your stress-o-meter is reading 100, then supta buddha konasana is for you. “It’s a heart-opening, lung-stretching, deeply restorative posture,” writes Dr. Lipman. And notice how it doesn’t really take much flexibility?

Put a bolster, or folded blankets, under your shoulder blades to support your knees, spine, and head, and you’ll feel a gentle release in your hips, chest, shoulders, and throat, he says. Hopefully your whirring mind will follow.

Yoga instructor directing a back stretch at yoga studio

6. Do something you love for at least 10 minutes a day

No matter how slammed at work you are or how demanding your responsibilities, spending just a few minutes a day on 

 something you love can have amazing benefits, says Dr. Lipman. “We all think we don’t have time, but most of us can find it somewhere…It doesn’t have to be a big deal: Shoot hoops in the driveway. Sketch something on the bus home. It’s incredibly powerful and healing,” he says.

7. Eat the yolk

Three decades in, it looks like egg whites will never go out of style. But that doesn’t mean the yellow stuff is bad for you. “Contrary to popular belief, the cholesterol in the food you eat has virtually no impact on the cholesterol level of your blood,” writes Dr. Lipman. “It’s sugar and carbs that trigger production of bad cholesterol in your body.” May we suggest cutting out the sugar from your latte, instead of the yolk from your morning avocado toast?

8. Consider clutter the junk food of your home

A healthy home doesn’t have magazine piles in every corner and clothing on every chair. “Clearing it out gets energy moving again,” writes Dr. Lipman. So, throw it out, donate it, and stop buying so much stuff, he says—and that doesn’t mean hide it all away in closets and drawers. Marie Kondo to the rescue.

9. Get 15 minutes of sunshine a day

Vitamin D is important and most people don’t get enough, explains Dr. Lipman. It’s especially hard for those of us who are at our desks all day, tied up in work. But taking a few minutes a day to walk outside is better than none. “Get out in the sun, arms and legs exposed (weather permitting) for 15 minutes every day, no sunscreen,” Dr. Lipman writes. “It’ll do wonders for your mood and energy level, too.”

Ohgaki, Gifu Prefecture, Japan

10. Honor thy feet

We’re not saying book a pedicure—though that sounds lovely! Your feet are super important because “they’re the command center of the body,” says Dr. Lipman. He suggests rolling a tennis ball under the bottom of one foot, then the other, for five minute each. When you take off a pair of high heels he suggests “to stretch yourself back into shape; stand on a step with just the balls of your feet and let one heel lower down for a deep calf stretch.” Switch feet and do that for two minutes.

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What's important is to give a little bit to the babies and watch them carefully for a reaction, according to the guidelines.

"You're looking for signs that your child didn't tolerate the food," Greenhawt said.

"It can be anything to a rash to vomiting, or something more severe such as coughing, wheezing vomiting, looking lethargic, looking withdrawn, or going into shock," he added. "You need to be on the lookout just like you would like when you're introducing any food."

The experts on allergies say that, based on earlier studies, there are not likely to be many babies that young having a reaction to peanut.

"There is a window where the immune system isn't going to recognize peanut as dangerous and that we believe happens very, very early," Greenhawt said.

About 5 percent of Americans have food allergies of some sort, and 1 to 2 percent have peanut allergies. Kids allergic to peanuts can have a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction to even a tiny bit of peanut dust or food containing peanuts.

And, for reasons no one really understands, peanut allergies have become more common.

"Peanut allergy has literally become an epidemic in recent years, and now we have a clear road map to prevent many new cases moving forward,"said Dr. Stephen Tilles, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

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