20 April 2015
Allergies May Be Prevented By Feeding Foods Containing Peanuts To Infants In
The First Year Of Life
Dr. Andrew Wiznia, Pediatric Allergist With Westchester Health Pediatrics, Optimistic About New Study’s Findings
Katonah, NY, April 20, 2015 — Forget everything you know about preventing childhood peanut allergies, and possibly other food allergies. The results of a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, led by Dr. Gideon Lack of King’s College London, found that babies at high risk of developing a peanut allergy who were fed a peanut-containing snack at least three times a week, starting early in life, had a substantially (70-80%) lower incidence of developing that allergy. The results were further explained in a February 26, 2015 article in The Journal News.
Wiznia, also a professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told The Journal News that Lack’s new research was prompted by the realization that few Israeli children have peanut allergies when compared to peanut allergy rates in children living in many other countries, possibly due to their consumption from an early age of a popular peanut snack called Bamba.
“The new findings can make a tremendous impact in the United States,” Wiznia stated. “It takes this increasing epidemic, where in the last 10 years, peanut allergy rates in children have doubled and tripled in the U.S., and says that we can do something prospectively to prevent this from happening.”
The nonprofit organization FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) estimates that 15 million Americans have food allergies, and that between 0.6 and 1.3 percent of the population is allergic to peanuts. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies in children have increased approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.
The study’s findings seem to follow a trend in recent years in the way clinicians approach introducing foods that may cause an allergic reaction. Wiznia explained that the idea is based on a hypothesis that the earlier a person is exposed to bacteria and proteins, the greater the probability that the person’s immune system can shift from being allergic or sensitive to the allergen to actually becoming tolerant of it.
“If you have a family with a lot of terrible allergies and you want to try to prevent similar allergies in your child,” Wiznia advised, “the best thing is to work on a farm, get pregnant, milk the cows when you’re pregnant and breastfeed in the barn.”
What can you do if you don’t live or work on a farm? According to the study, babies as young as 5 months of age who are at high risk (severe eczema or an egg allergy, for example) can be seen by their allergist and have a simple allergy prick test done for peanuts. If this is negative, they can be started on a peanut-containing snack, with the first dose given in the allergist’s office. For babies who test low positive, this first dose is administered slowly over a few hours; if tolerated, they can continue eating the peanut-containing snack to become tolerant of peanuts. This diverts future concerns of being allergic, exposed to and at risk for severe reactions.
Said Wiznia, “Hopefully, this approach to prevent allergy by developing tolerance can be applied to other high risk foods such as eggs and tree nuts.”
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