Should babies be given peanuts to reduce the risk of allergies?

In Healthworks, a recent study says yes maybe so. Let's get some answers from Dr. Devang Doshi, the chief of the Pediatric Allergy Department at Beaumont Children's Hospital. 

This was printed in the New England Journal of Medicine, tell us about the research.

"This study really looked at preventing the onset of peanut allergies in high-risk children," said Dr. Devang Doshi. "So these are children who had a history of eczema, or an egg allergy and they were tested for peanuts. If they were low or negative to peanuts, they were included into a study where we gave them peanuts early in life for a long period of time where they were followed for five years."

And giving those kids peanuts really reduced their risk of getting the peanut allergy, right?

"Yes. There was approximately an 80 percent decrease in the overall prevalence of developing peanut allergy in these high-risk children, so this is very different from what has been known in the medical community and advice we've been giving children," said Doshi.

The advice given to children now is if your child is at risk for peanut allergies avoid peanuts, now they're saying maybe expose your child, so what are you telling parents to do at this point?

Doshi said, "This was a great study, a big study with more than 600 children. We're still saying to wait because this is one of hopefully many more studies to come out. What we don't know is when you do prevent them from developing allergies by giving them peanuts early, do they, when you remove the peanut, the daily consumption of peanut, do they develop the allergy later? I think we've got time to wait for that answer to show up."

So, until then, you still advise avoiding peanut products altogether and there is no treatment at this point. 

"Correct. In the high-risk ones and the ones that are truly allergic, there is no treatment as of date, except for avoiding peanuts," Doshi said. 

Do we know how many kids have peanut allergies these days and why are there so many compared to when we were kids?

"The rates are alarming in the high number of children who have peanut allergies. Six-to-eight percent of children in the U.S. have a food allergy. We're looking at about two children for every classroom that has a food allergy. So the rates are increasing and nobody knows why," Doshi said.

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