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    Mayo Clinic Minute: Does giving peanuts to babies reduce allergy risk?

To avoid severe allergic reactions to peanuts, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children under 3 should not eat peanut products. Dr. Gerald Volcheck, a Mayo Clinic allergist, says recommendations have changed, thanks to research that shows exposure to peanuts may help prevent peanut allergies in high-risk children.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

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Peanut products have long been a no-no for babies, especially those at high risk of peanut allergies.

Dr. Volcheck says, “About 2½ percent all children have a peanut allergy.”

He says the Learning Early About Peanut allergy (LEAP) study has changed recommendations for when peanut products should be introduced into babies’ diets. The study divided babies at risk into two groups.

“One group was exposed to peanuts, starting at a very early age, between 4 and 11 months, and continued up to age 5. And then the other group completely avoided the peanut until age 5. And they found the likelihood of peanut allergy was much, much lower in the group that ate peanut from infancy to age 5 on a regular basis.”

The group that avoided peanuts had a higher incidence of peanut allergy.

“We think it has to do with kind of a desensitization process that exposure at that point in time changes the immune system so the body adjusts to it and is, in a sense, desensitized to it.”

Parents should talk to their health care providers before giving peanut products to young children. And never give whole nuts to kids under 4 years old, because they could choke.