Having a child who is allergic to peanuts is not easy especially when an anaphylaxis attack is a constant threat. So it's hard not to feel hopeful when you hear news like this. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine claims that introducing peanut butter within the first 11 months of a child's life can give them long-term protection from developing the allergy.
The new research, dubbed as "LEAP-On," studied 550 children that were preselected and tagged as "prone to developing a peanut allergy" because they had an egg allergy and/or severe eczema. Presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the research was a follow-up to the initial study, "Learning Early About Peanut Allergy" (LEAP), which found that early exposure to peanut products could cut a baby's risk of developing allergy by a whopping 80 percent. The babies were introduced to smooth peanut butter, peanut soup, and finely ground peanuts mixed into yogurt and other foods, as early as 4 months old.
The study's lead author, Dr. Gideon Lack of the King's College London, suggests that the parents' fear of food allergy has actually become actually a "self-fulfiling prophecy." "The food is excluded from the diet and, as a result, the child fails to develop tolerance," he told the BBC News.
Another new study, dubbed "EAT" (Enquiring About Tolerance), looked to see if the same technique was effective in desensitizing more than 1,300 3-month-old breastfed infants to six other foods that trigger allergies--peanuts, cooked egg, wheat, sesame, whitefish and cow's milk. The researchers found that early exposure helped significantly improve tolerance for egg and peanuts.
Note that the research above talks about exposure to a possible allergen when your child is still a baby. It's a different story if your child is a tween with allergies. So here are five things to keep in mind.
FICTION: Allergies always begin in childhood. While most allergies manifest between ages 3 and 5, a person could still develop an allergy even well beyond those years. Reasons for developing allergies as adults are change of location that exposed a person to a new allergen, or the person had a reaction to an allergen before, and it just resurfaced.
IT'S A POSSIBILITY: Your child can inherit his parents’ allergies. A pediatrician we spoke to clarified that yes, there’s a possibility that kids with parents who have allergies may develop allergies as well. However, it doesn’t mean the child will be allergic to the exact same food of his parents are allergic to.
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FACT: Breastfeeding can protect your child from allergies. UNICEF's studies have shown that children exclusively breastfed for four months or more exhibited less asthma, less atopic dermatitis, and less suspected allergic rhinitis by age 2. However, a breastfeeding mom should monitor what she eats so it’s easier to identify the allergen in case her baby develops an allergic reaction.
NOT ALWAYS: You can outgrow your allergy. The severity of a person’s reaction to an allergen may decrease over time, but there is still a chance of relapse. Symptoms of food allergies can return just as they have seemed to go away. Allergies to pollen, pet dander, and other substances can recur, too. IT DEPENDS: Constant exposure to allergens will desensitize you to them. There are situations that this is true, but you need to work closely with your doctor on the best allergy immunology or desensitization treatment.
Sources: March 7, 2016. "Giving Kids Peanuts Affords Them Greater Protection From Allergies, Study Says" (huffingtonpost.com) March 5, 2016. "Peanut allergy theory backed up by new research" (bbc.com) February 23, 2016. "Feed babies peanut products to reverse rise in allergy, say scientists" (theguardian.com) "Allergy Stat Sheet: An Infographic" (allaboutallergies.ph)