Allergies have been on the rise for a while now—particularly in kids. No one is exactly sure why. But there are some pretty good theories out there. Including the ones I discussed in my book The Allergy and Asthma Cure. In large part, I believe we live in a world that is just too clean, sterile, and isolated. We’re so worried about protecting kids from germs and potential allergens that we’re actually making the situation worse. Because then when they do get exposed, their immune systems just can’t figure it out.
And some new research on one of the biggest allergies in kids today backs up this theory.
I’m talking, of course, about peanut allergies. A generation ago, this issue simply wasn’t a problem. But today, it’s one of the most prevalent—and frightening—childhood allergies there is.
But a new study suggests the answer to this growing problem may actually be earlier, more frequent exposure.
Right now, parents are told to keep their infants away from peanuts and peanut-containing products for at least the first year.
But researchers discovered when infants at high risk for peanut allergy were fed peanut-containing products on a regular basis starting at 4 months old, their risk of developing a peanut allergy was dramatically reduced.
Among kids who tested positive on a peanut-based skin-prick test at the outset of the study, peanut consumption during infancy resulted in a 70% reduction in peanut allergy at age 5.
And, on the flip side of the same coin, the infants who weren’t exposed to peanuts actually had greater frequency of clinical peanut allergy.
There were no deaths. And no significant differences in the rate of hospitalization or serious adverse events between the avoidance and consumption groups.
Which, of course, proves the point I made above. Avoiding allergens isn’t the best strategy to prevent allergies. In fact, it appears to make the problem worse.
This study is particularly interesting to me because it focuses on infants as young as 4 to 6 months of age. Researchers usually don’t like to experiment on children this young, but the evidence is so compelling many are calling for an immediate change in clinical practice.
And, indeed, new guidelines SHOULD be issued.
This study makes it clear that we can do something now to reverse the increasing prevalence of peanut allergy. And it opens the door for further research regarding other allergens or even immunizations. The implications could be tremendously far-reaching.
Now, I’m not suggesting you run out and feed every child you know peanuts. This study was done very scientifically. And I’m well aware that peanut allergies do exist, and can, in some cases, be very serious. But I am recommending you pass this information along to any parents you know so that they can discuss it with their pediatrician.
After all, wouldn’t it be sad if we were creating generations of children allergic to peanuts for no good reason?
“Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy,” NEJM 2015; 372: 803-813