PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The old advice: to avoid peanut allergies, avoid peanuts.

That had been the recommendation. But these directions did not yield the desired outcome.

“Over the course of the next decade, what we saw was an increase in peanut allergy, rather than a decrease, and now the guidelines are steadily changing, and becoming quite the opposite of what we once had,” says allergist Dr. James DeAngelo.

Researchers took a closer look. And now the National Institutes of Health say early exposure to peanuts could reduce the risk of allergy.

“In societies that introduced peanut early, it seemed as if they were not getting the frequency of peanut allergy we were getting here in the United States and Western Europe,” Dr. DeAngelo points out.

Several studies have shown this pattern.

One notable study showed that infants who regularly ate peanuts had a 3 percent risk of allergy by age five, compared to 17 percent for peanut avoiders. That’s an 81 percent lower chance.

The three guidelines take risk into account, and are as follows:

1. Babies with eczema and egg allergy are at highest risk. They should get skin testing at 4 to 6 months and a peanut challenge under medical supervision.

2. Children with mild to moderate eczema can have a careful challenge at home when they are 6 months old.

3. Children with no risk factors can be introduced to peanuts at any time.

In all cases, infants should start other solid foods before they are introduced to peanut-containing foods.

According to the guidelines, here’s how you introduce peanuts to your baby. First, dilute some peanut containing product in some water. Then, offer them a small amount on the end of a spoon. Wait 10 minutes. If there’s no reaction, you can give them the rest.

These guidelines are not for kids who have already been diagnosed with a peanut allergy.

“It has been a trend. My feelings are right now, that it’s something we should do, but do so very cautiously. I think each patient will be an individual case,” Dr. DeAngelo said.

Dr. Maria Simbra