Eczema, Peanut Allergy May Be Linked
Study Shows 23% of Infants With Eczema Are Sensitive to Peanuts
WebMD News Archive
March 1, 2010 (New Orleans) -- Infants with eczema are at high risk of having peanut and other
food allergies, British researchers report.
"We were shocked to find out that even in the first year of life, over 20%
of infants with eczema already were sensitized [showed susceptibility] to
peanut allergy," says Graham Roberts, MD, a pediatric allergist at King's
Roberts tells WebMD that by the time they enter school, children with eczema
have a high rate of peanut
"But we didn't know how early the peanut allergy started; we thought may at
3, 4, or 5 years of age," he says.
The new research suggests peanut allergy develop much earlier, Roberts
The study involved 640 infants aged 4-11 months with eczema.
The researchers measured blood levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), an immune
system protein the body makes in response to allergens. A positive result
means a person is sensitive to and likely to be allergic to a certain
The results showed:
- 23% of the infants were sensitive to peanuts.
- 31% were sensitive to cow's milk.
- 22% were sensitive to sesame.
- 16% were sensitive to Brazil nuts.
- 20% were sensitive to hazel nuts.
- 21% were sensitive to cashews.
- 14% were sensitive to almonds.
Sixteen percent of the infants tested positive for more than four foods.
The findings were presented here at the annual meeting of the American
Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
New Food Allergy Theory Being Tested
Roberts says this is the first step in an ongoing study designed to test the
hypothesis that giving infants foods to which they are sensitized will prevent
allergies later in life.
"Right now, people are told to avoid the food they're allergic to. Our
hypothesis is that by introducing the food into the diet early on, the body
will see it as normal and won't become allergic to it. We're questioning a
fundamental preconception," he says.
In the ongoing study, infants with eczema who test positive for sensitivity
to peanuts are being divided into two groups; half get peanuts in their diets
and half don't. The researchers will compare the rates of peanut allergies in
the two groups when the kids reach school age.
Results are expected in three years, Roberts says.
The hypothesis is supported by the fact that Jewish children in London are
about 10 times more likely to have peanut allergies than Israeli children "and
one of the biggest differences is that kids in Israel are introduced to
[peanuts] early in life," says Hugh Sampson, MD, professor of pediatrics,
allergy and immunology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
"This is an important study testing whether high-dose early exposure to
foods is protective [against allergies]. It's a good theory, but one of
several," he tells WebMD.