Allergies are no laughing matter. At their mildest, a food allergy presents unpleasant reactions ranging from digestive discomfort to skin irritations to headaches. At their most serious, food allergies can be a matter of life or death. One of the most common allergies, especially among children, is a peanut allergy. Currently, somewhere around 3 million people in the United States have an allergy to peanuts. From 1997 to 2008, the amount of allergies tripled. This type of allergy seems to be genetic on some level, but not exclusively. While peanut allergies show up often in young children, research suggests around 20% of these allergies are outgrown. Up until 2008, pediatricians advised parents to wait until their child was 3 years old before introducing peanuts in an attempt to reduce the allergy. Experts hypothesized that young immune systems weren’t ready to handle common allergens such as peanuts, eggs, or nuts. In 2008, however, the American Academy of Pediatrics retracted this advice. Ever since, it’s been a grey area with plenty of room for discussion and controversy. That is, until a study published in early 2015 showed findings indicating that early introduction might be the best way to prevent and even be a cure for peanut allergies.
Conducted in the UK by the National Institutes of Health, the study participants were babies 4-11 months old who had been identified as at-risk for developing a peanut allergy. Over the course of four years (until the children were 5 years old), one group fed the children foods containing peanut products three times a week. The other group withheld anything containing peanuts.
At the end of the study, the babies who ate around 4 teaspoons of peanut butter a week were 80% less likely to develop a peanut allergy than the babies who were not introduced to peanuts at an early age. The results were so drastic the researchers decided to continue the study for further information.
How This Impacts You
This study really does seem to indicate the cure for peanut allergies might actually be eating peanuts themselves. However, the findings apply to young children without an established allergy. If you are the parent of a young child, there are safe ways to introduce peanuts to your child’s diet:
1. Assess your allergy risk. Since peanut allergies can be genetic, examine both family trees for any food allergies (even non-peanut allergies). Another risk factor is existing allergies; an egg allergy or eczema can be indications your child is at greater risk for a peanut allergy.
2. Start with baby steps. Even just a pea-sized amount of peanut butter is enough to determine your child’s reaction. Even if that first introduction doesn’t produce an allergic response, introduce peanut products slowly over time. Wait three days after the initial introduction and watch for delayed reactions before doing more.
3. Talk to your pediatrician. Because food allergies can be life threatening, it’s important to bring your child’s doctor into the discussion to make sure you progress safely.
http://www.everydayhealth.com/allergy-pictures/fascinating-facts-about-peanut-allergies.aspx http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/03/19/how-and-why-to-introduce-allergens-to-your-infant http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1414850?query=featured_home http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/a-new-way-to-lower-risk-of-peanut-allergies http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/02/is-it-really-safe-to-give-babies-peanut-butter/385892