Nurse Practitioners: Key to Helping Prevent Peanut Allergies Through Early Introduction

A recent study shows that some health providers are not embracing the latest National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) guidelines that recommend the early introduction of peanut foods to prevent peanut allergies. In fact, 38% of pediatrician respondents scored very low on compliance with the latest recommendations. While we don’t have similar research yet on the attitudes of nurse practitioners specifically, we do know that implementing the new guidelines is the key to helping prevent peanut allergies.

According to Wendy L. Wright DNP(c), ANP-BC, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, FNAP, Adult/Family Nurse Practitioner and Owner, Wright & Associates Family Healthcare in Amherst and Concord, NH, “There has been so much media hype about the risks of peanuts and peanut allergies that we, as Nurse Practitioners (NPs), often experience a push back from parents when we discuss early exposure.  It is critical that NPs take a proactive stance on this issue, make the time to discuss the latest research and evidence-based practice recommendations. NPs conducted 1 Billion visits last year and serve as providers to millions of young children.  Taking the time to discuss these recommendations are things that NPs do and do regularly.”

The NP has a unique opportunity to help guide other professionals and parents in adoption of the guidelines. According to American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)’s Nurse Practitioners in Primary Care, more than 75% of active NPs work in primary care, including 58.6% in family or pediatrics and another 9.1% in women’s health. In all of these areas, there are opportunities for NPs to lead the way toward prevention of peanut allergies. Moreover, the Standards of Practice for Nurse Practitioners call on NPs to advocate for their patients, collaborate with team members, and use evidence-based practices, all essential to promoting the latest guidelines for peanut allergy prevention. Wright emphasizes regarding the role of the NP, “Our specialty is primary prevention, education, and forming a partnership with our patients.  Discussing these recommendations with new parents is what we do and do well.”

Recent consumer research conducted for National Peanut Board by the Bantam Group shows that more than 40% of millennial parents are unaware of the new guidelines and those that are familiar want to know more. For instance, parents want to know more about why the guidelines once recommended avoidance and now they recommend early introduction. This is where NPs have a particularly important role. Wright says, “Look at the evidence, forget the hype and the fear.  Look at these guidelines and from where they came. We can actually help prevent these potentially life threatening reactions with education and by forming a partnership with these new parents.  NPs can make a significant difference if we know about this research and if we disseminate it.”

NPs should become familiar with the new recommendations and begin to incorporate them into practice. In particular, the guidelines and the concept of early introduction of peanut foods need to be introduce to parents within the first few months so that practitioners can assess the infant for risk and address any concerns of the family before the time for complementary feeding begins around 4-6 months. Using simple language, providing resources and readings, and easy-to-follow instructions, like those for home introduction of peanut foods to infants from the NIAID Guidelines website are all great ways to guide parents.

In order for the new guidelines to have maximum impact, all healthcare providers should be on the same page about early introduction of peanut foods to infants to prevent peanut allergies. As in so many other areas of patient care, NPs participation are a key to helping ensure success.

For more about the latest NIAID guidelines and managing peanut allergies, be sure to visit www.PeanutAllergyFacts.org.

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Wendy is a 1992 graduate of the Adult Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts and completed a family nurse practitioner post-master’s program in 1995.  She is an adult and family nurse practitioner and the owner of two, nurse practitioner owned and operated clinics within New Hampshire named: Wright & Associates Family Healthcare.  In addition, she is the Owner of Partners in Healthcare Education, a medical education company.  She is the Past President of NPACE and the Senior lecturer for Fitzgerald Health Education Associates.  She is the recipient of numerous awards and was chosen by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners as the 1999 recipient of the New Hampshire State Excellence Award.  In addition, she received the 2009 NH Nurse Practitioner of the Year and the 2014 Top 5 Women in New Hampshire Business Award.  In 2005, she was inducted as a Fellow into the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners; in October 2014, a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, and in March 2017, a Fellow into the National Academies of Practice. She is the founder of the NH Chamber of Entrepreneurial Nurse Practitioners, an organization designed to assist nurse practitioners with independent practice issues.  In addition to full-time clinical practice, she presents nationally to different audiences and has been a speaker at over 1000 conferences in 46 states.  She is the nurse practitioner representative to the State of NH Immunization Advisory Board.  She has been a medical media spokesperson for a number of companies and has appeared on radio, television, and in print magazines.  Wendy is frequently consulted by malpractice attorneys around the area of clinical practice and has worked on more than 100 malpractice cases involving nurses and nurse practitioners.