Healthwatch: Peanut Allergies

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A new study suggests many peanut allergies can be prevented. Researchers say their findings could lead to major changes in food allergy guidelines.

The chances Evan Woollen would develop a peanut allergy were high. His mother, Kerry Christopher, explains, "He had serious eczema.  He had an egg allergy." When he was 11 months old, his mother enrolled him in a study at King’s College London that involved more than 600 babies at high risk for peanut allergies. The infants were assigned to eat peanut protein or avoid it. The findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine found introducing peanut early dramatically decreased the risk of developing a peanut allergy.

Dr. Gideon Lack of King's College London says, "We found that feeding young infants with eczema, peanut in the first year of life was associated with a striking reduction in the prevalence of peanut allergy and seemed to prevent more than 80 percent of cases of peanut allergy."

Dr. Hugh Sampson at Mount Sinai Hospital says this is a landmark study that should change food allergy guidelines. "I think we will now see the prevalence of peanut allergy in this young population start to drop instead of continuing  to increase the way we have seen over the last 10 to 15 years."

Now 8 years old, Evan never became allergic to peanuts and can eat whatever he wants. "My favorite food is peanut butter which does have a lot of nuts in it," Evan says.

Children in the study were followed until they were five years old.  It’s estimated two percent of children in the US have food allergies.

To learn more, check out the video.

Healthwatch sponsored by Mercy Health Systems.