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Unfortunately allergies seem to be rife in our children these days. Allergies and autoimmunity is of course a hugely complex subject – click here if you’d like a bit of a snippet in to a deeper discussion – but, one that is undoubtedly on the rise with sometimes unfortunately deadly consequences is the peanut allergy. In this article we take a look at some of the science-backed ways you can potentially reduce the risk of your child developing this type of allergy.
According to data published in the New England Journal of Medicine peanut allergies among children in Western Countries have nearly doubled in the past ten years and are now emerging in Africa and Asia (1).
Not a trend we like….
I dont know about you but whenever I see headlines about the death of a child with a severe allergy my heart (like every other parent’s) plummets. Once your child has this allergy, not only is there that perennial ever present threat, but in many cases it is out of your control. It is also not an allergy that is often ‘outgrown’. Awful combination.
As always, we look for practical and science based ways you can reduce your risks and in the case of peanuts there may just be a strategy that can reduce your risks:
Historically there has been a lot of back and forth about whether you should avoid known allergens (elimination) or whether you should introduce them in small quantities early. The debate continues, although it is worth noting that guidelines advising on avoidance were largely abandoned in 2008 as most elimination studies failed to show statistical benefit.
Now – this is where it gets more interesting:
Interestingly (for me personally as mother to a child of Israeli heritage) several years ago one study showed 10x higher incidence of peanut allergy in Jewish children in the UK vs children of similar hertitage living in Israel. Sounds odd?! The data showed that on average peanut based foods were introduced around 7 months of age with a median monthly intake of around 7.1g grams in Israeli children with children in the UK having no consumption within the first year (1). One conclusion therefore was that the reason Israeli children with similar heritage to children in the UK had far less incidence of reaction was due to diet and the much earlier introduction of peanuts into the diet of Israeli children than Jewish children in the UK. (1)
Adding to this was a study that was realeased in 2015: LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut Study) which ultimately demonstrated a significant benefit of introducing peanuts in very small quantities to children as young as 4-6 months old with a risk of developing an allergy (defined as having either severe eczema/egg allergy/both).
They were divided into two groups – one who were given a small amount (between 2-6g per week) and those who avoided it completely.
Of those children who avoided it 14% went on to develop an allergy
Of those children who were exposed to it, less than 2% went on to develop an allergy.
So what to do?
Well as always, if you are concerned about an allergy or there is family history, the first port of call has to be a discussion with your doctor to work out a safe plan of action. However, this data suggests exposing your child to a small amount of peanut from 4-6 months of age could be a smart strategy to reduce risks of an allergy developing in the future.
For much more information check out the Learning About Peanut Study (LEAP) here.
(1) Du Toit G, Roberts G, LEAP study team: Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy: The New England Journal of Medicine. 2015 Feb: 372(9): 803-813
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.
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