Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Allergy March

It's amazing the information you can find on the internet.  In doing some research, I found a clinical research trial that is currently being conducted at the Evelina Children's Hospital in London. It's called The LEAP Study, short for Learning Early About Peanut Allergy and is funded and sponsored by two US organizations, the Immune Tolerance Network and The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Health officials in the US, UK and Canada advise parents not to introduce peanut butter to their childrens' diet until around age 2 as a way to decrease the chances of developing a sensitivity/allergy to peanuts.  Because our younger son is considered at risk for a peanut allergy based on family history, i.e., Abigail, we were told to wait even longer until he is 3. However, there are many countries where children eat peanut products from infancy on that do not show the high levels of peanut allergies as seen in Western countries. This study (which is now full) looks at these two schools of thought.  Here's an excerpt from their site:

The majority of children have their first allergic reaction to peanut between 14 and 24 months of age. Children suffering from eczema or who are allergic to egg are at highest risk - these children have a 20% chance of going on to develop a peanut allergy.

The LEAP Study involves 640 such high-risk children who were enrolled in the study when aged 4-10 months. Each child was randomly assigned to follow one of the two approaches – avoidance or consumption. Children in the avoidance group avoid eating peanut-containing foods until they reach the age of three. In the consumption group, parents are asked to feed their child an age-appropriate peanut snack three times per week (equivalent to about 6 grams of peanut protein per week). All participants receive allergy testing, dietary counseling, physical examinations and will be asked to provide occasional blood samples that will be used to examine differences in immune system development in each of the study groups.

The proportion of each group that develops peanut allergy by 5 years of age will be used to determine which approach - avoidance or consumption - works best for preventing peanut allergy. We anticipate that the study will reach completion in 2013, at which time the results will be analyzed and published.

There is some great informative on their site, and if you are dealing with a peanut allergy, it's very much worth checking out.  There is one topic that I wanted to point out.  The site discusses the "Allergy March", which is a term they use to explain how allergic diseases progress throughout a person's life.  According to the site, the Allergy March begins with eczema which is usually diagnosed within the first few months of life.  In 1/3 to 1/2 of children, eczema is linked to an underlying food allergy.  They go on to explain that food allergies appear in the first 3 years of life and that the development pattern of allergic diseases, the type


and age they occur, is the same in a large number of children. They do say that just because a child has eczema as an infant doesn't mean that they will go on to have a food allergy, but it does mean that they will have a higher risk of following this Allergic March.  In fact, 20% of children with eczema do develop a peanut allergy.

I find this very interesting.  Both my children had eczema as infants.  I put a tiny amount of peanut butter on Abigail's lips at around 18 months of age.  Less than 15 minutes later, her nose was pouring and she had hives.  At around 2 to 3, she had numerous trips to the doctors for wheezing and ended up on Albuterol and Pulmicort.  We were just one diagnosis away from Asthma when she appeared to out-grow it.  We had our younger son tested at 18 months for food allergies.  His blood test showed negative to everything.  We allow him to eat foods that are manufactured in the same plant with peanut products, but at 2 1/2, he's still not had anything with peanuts as an ingredient.  As an infant, he was very prone to ear infections and ended up with tubes.  He now constantly has either a runny nose or is clearing his throat because of drainage.  My gut tells me it's food related, but I can't prove it without doing an elimination diet.

I will be following this study closely.  The results will come too late to benefit my family, but it will still be interesting to know if all along we've been doing the wrong thing by avoiding all peanut products in the infancy stage.

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