Can parents prevent peanut allergies?

Peanut allergies are on the rise in children. Can they be prevented in the womb or early childhood?

Peanut allergies affect about two percent of Canadians, but they’re much more common in children than adults. The number of Canadian children affected tripled from 1997 to 2008, and it’s not known why. This is particularly concerning because an allergy to peanuts can be quite severe — just 1/8000th of a peanut can trigger an anaphylactic reaction in some people, and the legumes are responsible for 90 per cent of deaths from allergy-related anaphylactic shock.

Should women avoid peanuts during pregnancy?
Knowing that a peanut allergy can be so serious, many parents wonder if there’s something they can do to prevent it either during pregnancy or when their children are young. But if you’re confused about whether or not you should avoid eating peanuts during pregnancy, you’re not alone. One study found that the more peanuts pregnant women ate during their third trimester, the higher their babies’ risk for sensitivity to peanuts. However, researchers are now looking at whether eating peanuts while pregnant could actually increase peanut tolerance. Until the results of that new study are known, doctors will likely recommend that expectant mothers with a family history of peanut allergies not consume peanuts while pregnant.

Could introducing peanut products at a later (or earlier) age prevent allergies?

Parents also wonder if they should feed age-appropriate foods that contain peanuts to their baby as soon as he or she is ready for solid food, at some later age, or not at all. The answer may come in 2013, when we should have the results from a study headed by Dr. Gideon Lack, a researcher in London, England. Dr. Lack is tracking two sets of children: One set is avoiding peanuts until age three, and the other is eating age-appropriate peanut snacks three times per week.

Other causes of food allergies
In earlier research, Dr. Lack found that peanut sensitization in children can also be caused by the application of ointments and creams containing peanut oil to inflamed skin. This means that reducing peanut exposure may involve more than just avoiding certain foods.

If you’re concerned about peanut exposure, consider keeping your home entirely peanut-free. Avoid toiletries or other products containing peanut oil so that you don’t pick up trace amounts from surfaces, and learn how to read labels to avoid consuming foods that may contain traces of nuts.

Elizabeth Goldenberg, Food Allergy Expert and Lawyer, is the founder of OneSpot Allergy.

Content provided by The Mark News.

FILED UNDER: