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Breakthroughs in Peanut Allergies

Why are food allergies and particularly peanut allergy on the rise? Researchers have been trying to understand why peanut allergies are on the rise and the exact causes are still unknown. Research has shown that possible factors for food allergies, specifically peanuts, may include foods being introduced too early in life, mothers consuming certain products during pregnancy and trace exposures due to food contamination at the production source. It is also possible that it is environmentally induced. For many it is a life-long allergy, however peak age for an anaphylactic reaction appears to be between 14-17 years of age.

What type of progress is being made?

Research progress is being made on two fronts: one is through desensitizing a child by slowly increasing exposure to nuts. The other is by utilizing enzymes which neutralizes the protein causing these reactions in the first place.

What percentage of children suffer with food allergies?

Peanut allergies account for up to 25% percent of all severe allergic or anaphylactic  reactions to food. In recent years the number of food allergic individuals has doubled and upwards of 8 percent of US children suffers with this condition.

How does cross sensitivity affect people?

Cross sensitivity is also an issue and many children with peanut allergies also react to other legumes such as Soy and Chick Peas. Many peanut allergic individuals also react to certain nuts and seeds. So it is important to understand that dealing with one allergy will not reduce allergic reactions to all foods.

What is the process being testing by researchers in North Carolina?

Researchers in North Carolina are working on a process that is based on food enzyme technology which naturally breaks down the offending proteins responsible for the food allergy occur through accidental ingestion.

What should parents do now?

In the meantime, individuals who suffer with severe food allergies should remain vigilant since 75% of all allergic reaction occurs through accidental ingestion.

How is the diagnosis of food allergies made?

Diagnosis is made by a physician and can be confirmed by using tests such as a RAST IGE Blood test, skin testing or through a food challenge which is considered the gold standard.

Tips

  • With Halloween coming up parents should be particularly careful. Avoid candy bars and inspect anything that your child may consume once you are home.

  • Ask your doctor about an Epi-pen and make sure that you or someone who has been trained can administer in an emergency.

  • Be aware that many foods such as chocolate bars may be contaminated.

  • Grills in restaurants where peanut oil might be brushed on may be a source of cross contamination.

  • Symptoms of food allergy can occur within minutes and occasionally within hours. For many it starts with a tingling on lips or mouth and chills. From there, the throat may swell or eyes may tear or water. The best advice is strict avoidance.

  • If you do not know all the possible ways in which food has been prepared or what the ingredients may be, avoid them.

  • When going to a restaurant or to school carry an "allergy card" which can be given to a waiter, teacher etc. instructing them on your allergies.

  • Prior to leaving home make sure you carry an "allergy pack" with you. It should include an anti-histamine, prednisone and an Epi-pen.

  • If you think you might have been exposed take an antihistamine,¬†prednisone and be sure to be take your¬† Epi-pen. Remember it takes 10 minutes for the peak effect of an Epi-pen to work.

  • Exercising immediately after ingesting a potential allergen has been known to accelerate allergic reactions.

  • For many children trace amounts of exposure can have lasting effects in terms of chronic infection, rash and asthma symptoms.

  • Once a child has been exposed or has had a severe reaction inflammation may be present in their system for many weeks. This poses a significant threat for those with asthma due to increased airway responsiveness.

 

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