Peanut allergies have doubled in number in the last decade. Thus, a team of researchers which was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Food Allergy Research and Education has conducted a study to see if early exposure to peanuts played a major role in the development of peanut allergies.
Parents have long been going through so much just to keep all the food their children eat "nut-free" to prevent any anaphylactic shock that may happen. However, this study suggests that exposing your child as early as childhood can prevent the occurrence of peanut allergy.
Peanut allergy is one of the "Big 8" food allergies that account for 90% of those suffered by 21 million Americans as reported by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Furthermore, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2007, approximately 3 million children who are under 18 years old have food allergy.
Meanwhile, Peanut Allergy reports that approximately 1% of the U.S. population has a peanut allergy. Also, AAAAI added that An estimated 400,000 school-aged children in the United States have this allergy.
In the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, eating peanut products as a baby significantly reduced the risk of developing the allergy by 80% in high-risk infants. To reach their findings, they followed hundreds of children who have manifested sensitivity to peanuts who were between 6 and 11 months old. They were followed up until they reached five years old and they found out that those who avoided peanuts were more likely to develop full-blown peanut allergies than those who did not.
Moreover, there was only 1.9% of the children who were exposed to peanuts earlier in their life who developed the allergies compared to 13.7% of those who developed allergies following avoiding peanuts.
"I think it's really going to be a game-changer for the allergy world. Up until now, we've been focused on diagnosis and management of children that have food allergies. This is the first randomized, controlled study that gives us evidence that we can prevent the occurrence of food allergies in kids. It would be much easier for us to be able to prevent the development of food allergies in the first place," said Dr. Samuel Friedlander, an allergy and immunology specialist at the University Hospitals in Cleveland, who was not involved in the study, told ABC News.
Dr. Gideon Lack, head of the research team, says that the study excluded infants who had already showed early strong signs of developed peanut allergy. He said, "The safety and effectiveness of early peanut consumption in this group remains unknown and requires further study."
He added, "Parents of infants and young children with eczema or egg allergy should consult with an allergist, pediatrician, or their general practitioner prior to feeding them peanut products."