Stories about: peanut allergies

Pregnancy and peanuts: the end of the avoidance theory

Pregnant women often avoid (or at least limit) some of the foods they’d normally like to eat because of the chance those menu items could hurt the health of their baby. In many cases it’s the right thing to do, but women who fear that eating peanuts during pregnancy could cause their child to one day develop a peanut allergy needn’t worry, according to a Boston Children’s Hospital study.

“Our study showed that increased peanut consumption by pregnant mothers who weren’t themselves nut-allergic was associated with lower risk of peanut allergy in their children,” says senior author Michael Young, MD, of Boston Children’s Allergy and Immunology Division. “Assuming she isn’t allergic to peanuts, there’s no reason for a pregnant woman to avoid peanuts.” The study was recently published by the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics.

With the great rise of food allergic children and life-threatening reactions in the 1990s, many doctors began advising women to avoid highly allergenic foods like peanuts, nuts and shellfish during pregnancy and while nursing. Pediatricians also advised parents not to give peanuts to any child younger than 3 years old. These recommendations were based on the hypothesis that exposing a young, immature immune system to highly allergenic foods increased the risk of sensitization and could lead to the development of allergy.

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A potential breakthrough for peanut allergy treatment

Peanut allergies are among the most rapidly growing food allergies in the United States. Millions of children are currently living with the condition, with new cases being diagnosed daily. (A recent study shows the number of reported peanut allergies tripled in just over a decade.) And because allergic reactions to peanuts tend to be the most severe—80 to 95 percent of all food allergy deaths are peanut or tree nut related—the trend is a serious cause for concern.

But a small pilot study published by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, may offer hope for the hundred of thousands of families living with the condition. Conducted by researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital’s Division of Allergy and Immunology and Harvard Medical School, the new study shows that by combining a powerful anti-allergy medication and a methodical desensitization process, Boston Children’s researchers may be on their way to creating the next best thing to a cure for peanut allergy.

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Take me out the ball game (but leave the peanuts at home)

image: flikr/pinkmoose

Depending on who you ask, peanuts are as much a part of baseball as the National Anthem and the seventh inning stretch. (After all, no one takes you out to the ball game for carrots and celery sticks.)

But despite their long-standing tradition as the game day treat of choice, there are plenty of young baseball fans who want nothing to do with peanuts, Cracker Jack or any other nut heavy treat: Children with peanut allergies.

But as a recent Boston Globe article notes, the Red Sox and many other major league teams are making an effort to make their stadiums safer for their nut allergic fans. Fenway management recently made an outdoor, 226-seat section, completely peanut free for a game, and routinely sections off enclosed areas for fans with severe allergies that might not otherwise be able to attend.

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Peanut allergies on the rise among kids

for kids with severe nut allergies, peanuts can be deadly
For kids with severe nut allergies, peanuts can be deadly.

We all know that children can be notoriously picky when it comes to food, but for kids with severe food allergies an extremely limited diet can be a life saver. Current data shows that close to 7 percent of all kids in the United States have food allergies, well over double the number reported a decade ago. This upward trend was reported in several new studies which show food allergies, especially to peanut and tree nuts are still on the rise among kids. Yet despite the wealth of information proving the increase in these cases, researches can’t seem to figure out why the numbers are growing.

“I think it’s a big puzzle that we still don’t fully understand,” says Dale Umetsu, MD, PhD, of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Allergy Program and Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “Clearly there are changes in our environment that are causing this increase but we don’t know which ones; it could be a slew of different factors.”

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