More children are becoming sensitized to peanuts, and it could be because more pregnant and breast-feeding women are eating peanuts, say British researchers. The percentage of children testing positive for peanut sensitization at one center has tripled since 1989. A sensitization to peanuts (the presence of antibodies in the blood that recognize peanuts) increases the chances that a child will develop allergic symptoms when they eat the food.
The researchers tested 1,246 children born between 1994 and 1996. Each child got a skin-prick test for peanut allergy, and parents were asked about a history of asthma, hay fever and eczema, as well as specific questions relating to food allergy, including peanut allergy, and any other severe allergic, or anaphylactic, reactions.
The report stated that 3.3%, of the children had a positive response to peanuts, compared with a positive response rate of 1.1% in a similar 1989 study. Children who tested positive to peanuts showed a high level of atopy, which is a tendency to develop allergy and asthma symptoms, the researchers said. Half of them had a history of asthma, and nearly all of them had had eczema. Peanut allergy is not common in the population but it can be deadly.
Doctors say women who have a family history of allergy should not eat peanuts while pregnant or breast-feeding, and infants with such a family history should not be given peanuts to eat.
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