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Peanut Allergy Update

A young child holds up a peanut and looks at it closely.Does your child have a peanut or tree-nut allergy? Peanut allergies have doubled over the past decade. Recent historic research in the past three to four years are helping to change guidelines that will hopefully disrupt this peanut and tree-nut allergy trend.

Food allergies affect up to 15 million people in the U.S. and specifically up to 4 million children in the U.S. That figure means that up to 2 kids in a single school classroom of 25 to 30 kids may be affected by a food allergy. Peanut is the most common allergen followed by milk and then by shellfish.

Peanut allergy affects up to 3% of children in Western countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. Why the increase in peanut allergy? In 2000, clinical practice guidelines in both the U.S. and the U.K were peanut avoidance before the age of 3 years old. Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended to parents the avoidance of peanut and allergenic products in high risk infants by excluding allergenic foods from infants’ diet as well as excluding these foods from a mother’s diet during pregnancy and lactation. Even though it was thought that these recommendations could help prevent a peanut allergy in a child, both the U.S. and the U.K. saw the opposite effect. Peanut allergy rates have doubled over the past 10 to 15 years in both countries.

As peanut allergy rates increased, the clinical practice guidelines of early peanut avoidance in the U.S. were lifted in 2008. Recent historic research in the 2015 and 2016 Peanut and Allergy (LEAP) trials led by Dr. Gideon Lack have shown that early consumption of peanut products in high-risk infants with severe eczema, egg allergy or both, reduced the risk of developing a peanut allergy by 80% by 5 years of age. The persistence of oral tolerance to peanuts (LEAP-On) trial published in March 2016 showed that the absence of peanut reactivity is maintained even without continued exposure to peanut products. Most recently, the National Institutes of Health recommend that at-risk children, like children with eczema, be fed peanut containing foods as early as 4 to 6 months old. The historic LEAP trials have helped change the guidelines and will hopefully help to make an impact to lower the peanut allergy rates.

Studies are now in place to see if a peanut allergy can be reversed. Current studies like IMPACT will look at oral immunotherapy to see if regular exposure to a food allergen like peanuts can create tolerance and eventually rid of that food allergy.

There are several organizations which focus on peanut allergy awareness. One to check out is FARE. FARE is an impactful organization focusing on food allergy research and education. Other exciting companies include our friends, Mission MightyMe. This company was founded by Dr. Amy’s friends, Catherine and JJ Jaxon, alongside Dr. Gideon Lack who led the LEAP studies, and Todd Slotkin who co-created FARE. Their mission is to increase food allergy awareness and to have a product with a purpose. As previously mentioned, it is recommended from the Academy of Allergy and Immunology that at-risk children be fed peanut containing foods as early as 4 to 6 months. To help with this, Mission MightyMe offers ‘puffs with a purpose’ – puffs that have peanut and/or tree nut allergens. As parents want to be able to expose their at-risk children to peanut containing foods, puffs are typical food products that 4 to 6 month olds can usually eat.

A lot of amazing things are happening in the peanut allergy awareness world. Stay tuned as we hope to see reduced peanut and tree-nut allergies as well as tolerance to peanuts in allergic individuals.