A peanut allergy is probably the most common allergy experienced by people worldwide. In the United States alone approximately three million people suffer from peanut allergies. The existence of peanut allergies has also been on the rise in the last 20 years, with several studies showing that the amount of children who develop peanut allergies has tripled between 1997 and 2008.
Peanut allergies can range from simply being an inconvenience to a life-threatening condition, which is why many schools and other public spaces don’t allow peanuts on their premises. Thankfully, new research has shown that there may be a relatively simple way reduce the amount of peanut allergies being developed, and the answer is probably the last thing you would expect. But first, lets learn more about peanut allergies in general.
How Does a Peanut Allergy Work?
Peanut allergies generally develop during childhood and usually last for a lifetime (although some studies indicate that around 20% of people with peanut allergies grow out of it). This means that most people who are allergic to peanuts usually live a few years without the allergy before developing it, making it the most important stage in life when it comes to preventing it.
For people who have developed peanut allergies, the only way for them to prevent symptoms of it is by strictly avoiding all peanut products, as there is no known cure for it.
People with peanut allergies can experience reactions with even the slightest exposure to peanut products, including physical contact such as rubbing or touching, although these generally cause only mild reactions. However more serious reactions can occur if peanut residue comes in contact with an allergic persons’s eyes, nose or mouth.
The most severe reactions from peanut allergies usually occur when someone who is allergic accidentally consumes a peanut product. This often happens at restaurants that don’t provide proper information on their foods ingredients, or from snacks without proper allergy warning labeling or ones that have been contaminated with peanut residue.
The severe form of anaphylaxis caused by exposure to peanutes includes tightening of the airways and swelling of the tongue or throat. This makes breathing difficult and, in extreme cases, can block a person’s airways altogether, which can result in death.
Prevent Peanut Allergies by Feeding Your Kid Peanuts
A peanut allergy is not a condition to be taken lightly, and two recent studies conducted by King’s College in London found that the answer to preventing peanut allergies may be exposing children to peanuts at a very young age.
During the study, researchers split a group of children who were at risk of developing a peanut allergy into two groups: one that would consume peanut products within their first 11 months of living, and one that would avoid peanut products within their first 11 months.
By the end of the study, researchers found that only 1% of the children who had eaten peanut products developed an allergy, compared to 20% of the children who avoided peanut products. Researchers believe that by exposing newborn babies to peanut products within the first year of their life, their immune system becomes used to it and prevents them from developing an allergy later on.
Since newborn babies can’t easily eat peanuts themselves, the most commonly used peanut product given to them was Bamba, a soft, peanut-flavored snack that is easily digested by babies.
Remember, this is a new study and was only conducted on babies that did not already have a peanut allergy. If your child has already developed a peanut allergy DO NOT feed them peanut products under any circumstances, this is simply a preventative measure parents can take, not a cure.