Even those who are not parents are probably aware of the fact that peanut allergies can be a major problem – especially for kids. Nearly all foods which contain nuts – or have even been produced in a factory which also manufactures nut products – are labeled with warnings to prevent accidental exposure to a child who is allergic to them.
This is because for many years, the most popular way to treat peanut allergies was simply to make sure that children avoided peanuts, peanut butter and other product with peanuts in them. New research from the U.K., however, is revealing that there may be another way to handle this early childhood problem.
Major Study from UK on Peanut Sensitivity
This study worked with 600 young children across the U.K. beginning when they were 4 to 11 months old. These children had already been diagnosed with eczema (which can often coincide with peanut allergies) and/or allergies to milk. The infants were divided into two groups: one group had a snack of 2 ounces of a peanut-butter based snack daily until they were five years old, while the other group avoided peanuts altogether.
At the end of the study, the results were a big surprise even for the researchers.
Of the children who ate peanut-based snacks daily, only 3% went on to develop a peanut allergy. On the other hand, of the children who avoided the peanut-based snacks, 17% eventually developed an allergy to peanuts.
This translates into roughly an 81% reduction in the rate of allergy development for this group!
The magnitude of reduction in allergy development for similar studies is without precedent and created quite a stir in the pediatric medical community when its results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Applications of the Study
This study could have a strong impact on the way that peanut allergies are handled by parents and pediatricians, both in the UK and the United States. Traditionally, pediatricians have encouraged parents not to expose children to foods like peanuts until age 3 if they are at a high risk for food allergies. However, even before this researcher came out, this recommendation was withdrawn by the American Academy of Pediatrics due to lack of clinical evidence that it was linked with positive patient outcomes.
This new study, too, could start to move doctors and patients further in the opposite direction, where the new standard of care will be to expose children to low levels of peanuts to help decrease sensitivity to this potential allergen.
In short, treatment of food allergies might be using a very different approach in the near future, particularly in light of new studies such as this. However, it is still a good idea to have a serious talk with the family doctor about these issues before trying children out on new foods, just to be on the safe side and make sure that the exposure is age-appropriate and takes the needs of the individual child into account.
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