Perth doctors will begin work on a peanut allergy study with the hope of reducing the rates of childhood allergies.
400 infants will participate in the study with the aim of understanding the possible benefits of early exposure to allergies in the future.
At the moment, current practice suggests that children who are considered to be at high risk of allergies, should be exposed to nuts from as early as four months old.
West Australian Health Minister, John Day, said that the delay in exposing children to high-allergy foods, like peanuts, was contributing to the high levels of allergic reactions in children.
“Parents have been in some cases very reluctant to allow their children to eat peanuts, and unfortunately that seems to have in some cases the perverse effect of meaning they’re more likely to have a very serious negative reaction later in life,” he said.
“As opposed to what occurs in a lot of other countries, particularly Asian countries, where children are exposed to small quantities early in life.”
The study will include children with a family history of allergies to peanuts and could see these children being given small amounts of peanuts, in paste or soup form, as a gradual introduction.
Researchers are hoping their findings will be able to ascertain whether early introduction can decrease the cases of severe peanut allergies later in life.
Rates of childhood incidences of severe allergy have continued to rise over the past 20 years, with three per cent of the population affected by peanut allergies.
The project is scheduled to begin next year, and if successful, will be rolled out across medical practices and child health clinics.