Could Early Exposure Prevent Peanut Allergy Development?
It can be challenging to protect a child from a food allergy. At school, the playground, and almost everywhere in between, potential threats of an allergic reaction loom. If there were a way to prevent allergies from developing, most parents would take the necessary measures, right?
Food allergies in American children have been on a steady rise, having increased by more than 50% since 1997. The most common food allergies children have are milk (primarily cow’s), eggs, peanuts (or other nuts), soy, wheat and seafood. Adding insult to injury, 1 in 13 children are allergic to one or more of these common food items.
What Causes Food Allergies?
Food allergies occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly treats a certain food as if it were dangerous. Allergic reactions can run the gamut from a mild rash to a severe anaphylaxis reaction, which is severe and potentially life threatening. Many children grow out of their food allergies, however an allergy to peanuts often sticks around for life.
Can Peanut Allergies be Prevented?
A recent study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and other organizations has turned conventional wisdom upside down. The study suggests that eating peanuts as an infant significantly, and almost entirely eliminates the risk of developing the allergy.
The study included infants who were 4 to 11 months old and were shown to have a high risk of developing a peanut allergy. The children were divided up with one group regularly fed food that contained peanuts, while the other avoided this type of food. They continued to be fed this way until they were 60 months old, at which time they were given another allergy test.
The results found that only 1.9% of children who were fed peanuts developed an allergy. Of those who avoided peanuts, 13.7% developed an allergy.
While there are some gaps in the study that necessitate further research, parents should be less concerned with introducing peanuts to their infants. Parents should also avoid giving infants whole nuts due to their risk of choking.
At Rainbow Pediatrics, we understand the important job you have of raising healthy children and we want to help. For more information on food allergies or peanut allergy prevention, give us a call at 910.486.5437 or visit us online.