Peanut allergies have doubled over the last 10 years in Western countries. They are also becoming more evident in Africa and Asia, according to a 2015 Learning Early about Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study performed by pediatric allergists from the United Kingdom.
Since allergies often begin in childhood, young children who seem most susceptible are often advised by pediatricians to avoid exposure to any peanuts.
However this 2015 study, as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that avoiding exposure to peanuts might not be the best thing.
The study gathered 640 infants ages 4 to 11 months old who had severe eczema, egg allergy or both. Out of this initial group, 530 were selected who did not show any type of positive skin test reaction to peanuts.
These 530 infants were randomly divided. They were either put into a group that avoided peanuts, or into a group that would be exposed to peanuts for the next 60 months. Then they were retested.
By 5 years of age, the rate of allergies to a peanut exposure in the avoid group was about 17 percent. In the exposed group, the rate was only 3 percent.
That means that the avoid group developed peanut allergies almost six times as often as the exposed group.
Interestingly, the 98 infants who did not make it to the larger test group due to showing mild skin reactions, were also examined at five years of age. Some of those kids continued to avoid peanuts while others had consumed them.
In the mild reaction/avoid group, 35 percent developed peanut allergies while only 11 percent of the exposed group developed peanut allergies. So here the rate was still high. Peanut allergies occurred about three times as often in those who avoided peanuts.
Next in a follow-up study published in April 2016, children from the larger study group were told not to consume peanuts for the next 12 months.
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