By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

Does introducing young children to peanut
containing products increase or decrease their chances of developing a peanut
allergy? For years parents have been told to keep their kids away from peanut
products if there’s a good chance of them developing an allergy. Yet a British study is turning this
conventional wisdom on its head. The “Learning Early About Peanut allergy”
trial – or LEAP for short – set out to measure the effect of exposing high risk
children to foods containing peanuts, early on in their lives. They started out
with 640 kids between the ages of 4 and 11 months, who suffer from an egg allergy
or severe ecxema, or both. They did this because these existing conditions
suggest there’s a reasonable chance of developing a peanut allergy as a child.
Each of these children were then given a skin prick test, to see if their bodies
were already primed to react to peanuts. 98 of the kids ended up in this
especially high risk group. Within each of the two groups – those that were highly
likely to develop an allergy, and those that were just somewhat likely –
researchers randomly assigned children to either avoid peanut-containing products, or to be fed them
regularly each week. And this went on until the children were five years old. The results were quite startling. Take
those children that were considered only somewhat likely to develop a peanut
allergy. Out of those that ate peanut products every week, two out of every 100
of them ended up developing an allergy. That may sound high. But compared it to those
that weren’t exposed peanut products In this group, 14 kids out of every 100 developed an
allergy. In other words kids, that were not exposed to peanuts were seven times
more likely to develop a peanut allergy than those that were. This was in the lower risk group of kids.
In the high risker group, similar results were seen. Here, in the overall percentage
of kids with an allergy at five years old was higher as you’d expect. But even in
this group, if your child was not exposed to peanut
products, they were three times more likely to develop an allergy than if they
were. Following on from this research, the LEAP team have just published a
follow-up study where the original participants avoided peanut-containing
food for 12 months after the original trial That included those that
originally were exposed to peanut containing products, and those that weren’t.
They were then retested for peanut allergy. The results? There was no
indication that avoiding peanut containing products increased the
chances of an allergy subsequently developing, suggesting that early
childhood exposure may provide a degree of longer-term protection. There’s still a
lot we don’t know about what causes peanut allergy. And it’s important to
note that, even with early exposure, your child may still develop a serious
allergic response. Yet the results from the LEAP study suggest that avoiding
peanut products altogether at an early age, can actually increase the risk of
later allergy. Because of this, a number of professional organizations are now
recommending that parents introduce peanut containing products to their kids
early on. With the proviso of course that some children will still develop an
allergy; and professional advice should be sought wherever there’s a high chance
of this occurring. You can find more information on the LEAP study in the
blurb below. And do check out the “Reactions” channel on YouTube, who we’re
partnering with this week… …for more about peanut allergies, and a whole bunch of other cool stuff.

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