Food Allergies in Children
Recently, when talking to a friend about her child’s school, I was shocked to hear there is a table in the school’s lunch room reserved for children with food allergies. Not only is there a special table, but, in order to protect kids with allergies, there are also restrictions on foods other children can bring to school. I even noticed a sign at the entrance to our church’s children’s area asking everyone to clean their hands and faces before entering due to a child in the program with a food allergy. These measures of protection might seem extreme but are very important to protect children with food allergies.
Food Allergies are Common
The Centers for Disease Control state that allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States and that between four to six percent of all children have a food allergy. These food allergies are most commonly one of eight food groups: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts. CNN stated that approximately 2 percent of all children have a peanut allergy. Recently, new guidelines were published by an expert panel regarding peanut allergies specifically.
The LEAP Study
A LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) study conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was very revealing. This study included 640 children between the ages of 4 and 11 months old who were considered at a high risk for developing a peanut allergy as determined by an egg allergy or eczema condition. The children were divided into two groups: one that consumed peanut protein with three or more meals per day and one that did not consume peanut proteins at all. The study revealed that children who were at high risk for developing a peanut allergy but consumed peanut proteins early in life were less likely to have a peanut allergy.
As a result of these findings, three changes have been made to the Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States. First, children who are at a greater risk for a peanut allergy based on the presence of severe eczema or an egg allergy, should be exposed to peanut proteins between 4 and 6 months of age. Second, children with a mild case of eczema should be exposed to peanut proteins around 6 months of age. Third, children without any egg allergies or eczema conditions should be exposed to peanut proteins at any age.
Food allergies seem to be more common in the youngest generation. It is very important parents follow the latest advice to avoid the development of peanut allergies in their child.