When the topic of peanut allergies comes up, I feel that there's always two specific crowds of people. There's the "don't give anything with peanuts to your child until they're at least three years old" crowd, and then there's the "just give it to them, their bodies need to learn to hand it" crowd.
But which one is right?
I for one have absolutely no idea, but there are some doctor's that think they do.
Basically, a study came out that exposed some kids to peanuts at a very young age and kept it from others. They did some statistical analysis on both to see if there was any significance to the results, and found pretty conclusive evidence that exposing children to peanuts at a young age seemed to lower their chances of developing a peanut allergy as they grow up.
Many doctors in the Seattle area (along with some advocacy groups) are now encouraging parents to give their children peanuts younger to begin breaking the unproven fear of infant death due to severe allergy. Of course, the first time should be monitored carefully and large amounts should not be given.
Some doctors believe that if parents start doing this, less children will develop a full blown peanut allergy, and peanut allergy rates (which have increased 4x in the last decade or so) will go down.
This is actually an idea that I've held for a while, though again, unproven. I have heard of people developing allergies later in life, but I've also heard of those with more mild allergies developing a resistance to the allergy and being able to eat the food a little bit later in life.
If this works, though, we could see a lessening of peanut allergies in the Western world--rates of peanut allergies are already lower in places like Israel where kids eat peanut products from a young age and in some Asian countries where peanuts are often used in cooking.