According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, research suggests that there has been a 21% increase of peanut allergies in children since 2010. The study claims that nearly 2.5% of all children in the United States might have a peanut allergy. For those who have an allergy to peanuts, exposure to peanut protein can cause anaphylactic shock, which can lead to death if medical treatment is not quickly provided. Here is what all parents of babies and young children should know about peanut allergies and the new guidelines.
The High Risk Factors
Some children have a higher risk of allergy than others, particularly children who have or have had severe infantile eczema. The reason severe infantile eczema can lead to food allergies is because of a substance called thymic stromal lymphopoietin, which is produced by the body when the skin is damaged by infantile eczema. The worse the infantile eczema is, the worse the damage is to the skin, and the more likely it is that the child will develop asthma, hay fever, and/or food allergies.
Another thing that could lead to a child having a higher risk of developing a peanut allergy is when there is a family history of peanut allergy. In fact, scientists believe they have found a genetic marker that may be responsible for peanut allergy susceptibility. Therefore, a child is at higher risk when a biological parent has an allergy to peanuts. Another high risk factor is another food allergy, such as to egg, milk, or soy.
Due to the various risk factors that children have, new guidelines have been established by the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases. Essentially, it is recommended that children who are at high risk should be evaluated by an allergy specialist. This evaluation would likely involve allergy testing for peanuts, which may be done by a pin-prick test and/or by giving the child peanut butter or other peanut-containing food product for the first time to determine what allergic reaction they have, if any, while under the watchful care of a doctor.
Children who are determined to be at moderate or low risk do not need a medical evaluation to determine whether or not there is an allergy to peanuts. Their parents may begin introducing peanut-containing foods to the children as soon as the children are ready to begin eating solid foods, which is typically around 4-6 months of age.
If you are unsure whether or not your child is at high, moderate, or low risk, consult with your pediatrician or an allergy doctor for advice before introducing peanuts into your little one's diet.