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New Ways to Fight Nut, Milk Allergies

Studies Show Peanut-Rich Diets During Pregnancy and Injection-Free Milk Immunizations May Help
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 18, 2008 (Philadelphia) -- Peanut allergies among kids are on the rise, a new study shows, but several novel strategies show promise for stemming -- even reversing -- the tide.

Researchers studying mice found that by eating peanuts while pregnant and breastfeeding, new moms may lower the risk that their babies will be affected.

Meanwhile, another study suggests that kids can be immunized against potentially fatal peanut allergies -- and without any shots. Swallowing small doses of peanut protein under a doctor's supervision helped to desensitize children with peanut allergy, the idea being to cut the risk of a reaction if they accidentally eat peanuts.

As for milk allergy, injection-free treatments may work there, too -- and if not, other research suggests that four out of five kids who are allergic to egg, milk, or wheat may be able to safely start eating those foods by school age.

The research was presented here at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

Peanut Allergies on the Rise

About 2.2 million school-aged children have allergies to foods, with milk, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts among the most common culprits.

Now, a new study suggests that peanut allergies among young schoolchildren have risen 35% over the past five years.

Reactions can range from mild to severe, and can even lead to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition characterized by difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness.

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal randomly surveyed parents of kids in kindergarten through third grade in 2000-2002 and 2005-2007. About 8,000 parents were studied in all, says Moshe Ben-Shoshan, MD, a fellow in the department of allergy and immunology.

Peanut allergies were confirmed by the researchers, typically through the use of skin prick tests.

Results showed that 1.8% of kids had food allergies in 2005-2007, up from 1.3% in 2000-2002.

Ben-Shoshan says that the new results offer a clearer snapshot of the trend than past studies, as allergies were confirmed with objective testing.

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