A new study has raised questions about the usefulness of avoiding peanuts as a way of preventing a peanut allergy.

A randomized control trial was carried out by researchers from King’s College London, Guy’s and St Thomas’ National Health Service Foundation Trust, and other research centres in the UK and US.

It found that the early introduction of small, regular amounts of peanut protein to infants at high risk of developing allergies could reduce the amount who have a peanut allergy by five years of age.

The study looked at 640 infants aged between four and eleven months who were considered to be at high risk of having food allergies, as they were already suffering from severe eczema, an egg allergy, or both. It compared the effects of giving the infants regular small amounts of peanut butter products (not whole nuts) or avoiding peanuts completely until the age of five.

All of the infants were given a skin prick test at the beginning of the trial, and any who showed an allergic reaction to peanut protein before or during the study were advised not to eat them.

The researchers concluded that, “the early introduction of peanuts significantly decreased the frequency of the development of peanut allergy among children at high risk for this allergy.”

This suggests that eating peanut products during early life may reduce the risk of allergy-prone children developing a peanut allergy up to the age of five.

The participating children will now be monitored for longer to see if the results will continue over time, even if they stop eating peanut products.

However, this research is not yet at a stage where families could be recommended to try it at home. If you think that your child is showing signs of a peanut allergy, avoid peanut products and consult your GP.

For more information on nut and other food allergies visit:

nutmums.com – a parenting resource for those living with a peanut or nut allergy

Food allergies in children – NHS guidance

Peanut and tree nut fact sheet by Anaphylaxis.org – supporting people with severe allergies