3 years ago1,000+ Views
When the topic of peanut allergies comes up, I feel that there's always two specific crowds of people. There's the "don't give anything with peanuts to your child until they're at least three years old" crowd, and then there's the "just give it to them, their bodies need to learn to hand it" crowd.

But which one is right?

I for one have absolutely no idea, but there are some doctor's that think they do.
Basically, a study came out that exposed some kids to peanuts at a very young age and kept it from others. They did some statistical analysis on both to see if there was any significance to the results, and found pretty conclusive evidence that exposing children to peanuts at a young age seemed to lower their chances of developing a peanut allergy as they grow up.
Many doctors in the Seattle area (along with some advocacy groups) are now encouraging parents to give their children peanuts younger to begin breaking the unproven fear of infant death due to severe allergy. Of course, the first time should be monitored carefully and large amounts should not be given.
Some doctors believe that if parents start doing this, less children will develop a full blown peanut allergy, and peanut allergy rates (which have increased 4x in the last decade or so) will go down.
This is actually an idea that I've held for a while, though again, unproven. I have heard of people developing allergies later in life, but I've also heard of those with more mild allergies developing a resistance to the allergy and being able to eat the food a little bit later in life.
If this works, though, we could see a lessening of peanut allergies in the Western world--rates of peanut allergies are already lower in places like Israel where kids eat peanut products from a young age and in some Asian countries where peanuts are often used in cooking.

Here's to hoping!

@drwhat that makes a lot of sense. I wonder if there's any overlap between food allergies and seasonal ones? Or severe bee sting allergies? It's one of those things that I imagine would be difficult to study since a lot of the time there are so many environmental factors that change the way people's bodies respond. And it's not like you could use real test subjects!
@shannonl5 That's true, though I think there is a lot of unstudied overlap as well. I have a friend who is lactose intolerant, but it seems to be partially genetic, and partially to do with her immune system. There are some things she can never eat and others that she can't eat during a "bad week" which she can usually sense. I think peanut allergies are being discovered to be one of the ones that are typically affected more by the immune system than anything.
@mchlyang Really? That's interesting. I wonder if its possible related to the genetics of the people in Korea, or if it has to do with a desensitizing from an early age, like this.
@nicolejb I definitely think it can be stressful to worry about if you're putting them at unnecessary risk, but I think many people forget that withholding something (in this case, peanuts) can also cause harm in the long run. It's just like how we have to build up a resistance to certain illnesses.
I feel like it really depends on the allergy and the person in question. Some people's bodies are just really sensitive- it has nothing to do with the age of exposure and everything to do with their immune systems. Other people aren't born with the enzymes they need to break down some foods properly (which is how genetic lactose intolerance works).
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