Dec. 3, 2007 -- Children are developing potentially dangerous peanut allergies at a much younger age, according to a new study.
And that's not all: The study researchers found more parents are feeding their children peanuts at an earlier age.
"This should be a wake-up call to all parents of young children," says researcher Wesley Burks, MD, chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke University Medical Center, in a news release. "Kids are being exposed to peanuts and having allergic reactions much earlier than they did five or 10 years ago."
About 1.8 million Americans are allergic to peanuts, and researchers say the number of peanut allergies diagnosed in children has doubled in the last decade. They say these results suggest earlier exposure to peanuts may be a major factor behind that rapid increase.
"There's a valid reason to delay introduction to products containing peanuts," says researcher Todd D. Green, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, in the release. "When kids are older, it can be easier to manage bad reactions. They can tell you right away if their mouths feel funny. For that reason alone, it's worth delaying exposing your child to a peanut product, especially if a child is at high risk."
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents not give peanuts to children until age 3 if there is a strong history of allergies in the family.
Peanut Allergies Showing Up Earlier
Researchers compared statistics on children diagnosed with peanut allergies at a Duke University clinic between July 2000 and April 2006 with similar-age children diagnosed between 1995 and 1997.
The results, published in Pediatrics, showed the average age of first exposure to peanuts was 14 months in 2000-2006 compared with 22 months five to 10 years earlier.
The age of first peanut allergy reaction also decreased from about 24 months in 1995-1997 to 18 months in 2000-2006. Many of the children with peanut allergy also had other food allergies such as allergies to eggs, cow's milk, nuts, fish, soy, wheat, and sesame seeds.
Researchers say as many as one-third of people with peanut allergies have severe reactions that can be fatal.