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Early Exposure May Lead To Increased Risk Of Allergies

With the new school slogan across North American being changed to “Peanut Free”, it comes as no surprise that new studies have been developing across the globe in regards to peanut allergies, both in cause and treatment. Recently, a new research project has found that children may actually become allergic to peanuts before ever eating them through exposure by skin. This may play a large contributing factor to the development of sensitivity early on, as skin can become reactive to antigens like peanuts and other allergens before other sensitivities develop. This process was tested in lab mice, showing very strong results in favor of early introduction through the skin playing a crucial role in allergy development.

Children And Peanuts

Nothing is scarier that learning that your child has an allergy to nuts, especially if it involves peanuts, as this particular allergy can often be quite lethal when untreated. New studies lead at Mount Sinai with mice, and published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, has shown that skin exposure to allergens, particularly food allergens like peanuts, can contribute to the sensitization of an allergy. What this means is that through repeating exposure to the skin, something like peanuts could become an allergen, before a child ever eats or smells it. This could be a problem, particularly with infants, as many physicians and previous studies have recommended that babies not be introduced to this food type until at least six months of age. These results show that even without allowing your baby to ingest the nut, they could develop the same feared reaction by simply touching or being touched by peanut residue.

How Drastic The Peanut Problem Really Is

Although many cases of peanut allergies aren’t fatal, especially with proper treatment and the carrying of an epipen for emergency situations, one to two percent of the population will have a reaction to this food, and these allergies are often a lifelong problem. In the past, children have become allergic after early interaction with the peanut proteins in residue in the home or even breast milk, but always through ingestion. This latest information leads researchers to believe that even just touching a nut could have a serious and lasting effect on your child. Science Daily has quoted Cecilia Berin, the Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in saying: "The peanut protein responsible for most allergic reactions in humans is seen as foreign or dangerous by the immune system of the skin. Blocking those immune pathways activated in the skin prevented the development of peanut allergy in the mice, and our next step will be to confirm this in humans."

These findings could mean a whole new way of thinking about the interactions that children have with food, and which ingredients should be introduced to them in their early years. In the past things like peanuts, strawberries, and a variety of other items have been held back until at least the six month marker, while others aren’t introduced until children are one year of age or older.

The Study And Results

The study was a collaborated effort between the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, Immunology Institute, Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital, and The Mindich Child Health and Development Institute. Throughout the research lab mice were exposed to the peanut protein at an early age with a repeated topical treatment. As the protein extract was placed on the skin, severe reactions followed which could be physically viewed throughout the entire body at the second exposure. The findings showed that these nuts were an allergen due to an immune response, and that this might not be the only food to create the development of allergies due to skin exposure in early years.

Allergies In The United States

Aside from this peanut related allergy study, other research has provided information on how being a citizen of the United States may also affect the response that your immune system gives to certain foods or other allergens. CBS News says: “A study of a nationally representative sample of children finds that kids born outside the U.S. are significantly less likely to have allergic diseases like asthma, eczema, hay fever and food allergies than children who were born in this country.”

These statistics were not just singular to U.S. born citizens, however, as those who were born in other countries and immigrated into America also had a significant risk to allergens, although not as high as those citizens born in the country. These risks for foreign born Americans develop with prolonged residence, showing that there may be something specific in the country that is causing these reactions. The results came from a research study performed at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in NYC, where information collected from the National Survey of Children’s Health including data on over 91,600 children aged 0-16 was tracked until 2008. In the data, 20.3% of children born outside of the United States had one disease or illness related to allergies, compared to the 34.5% born inside of the United States. These rates were not affected by the gender or ethnicity of children, but what was surprising was that children with parents who were born outside of the United States also had a lower chance of developing these illnesses. Dr. Jonathan Silverberg of Bath Israel Medical Center and Sr. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center thinks that these statistics may have something to do with environmental factors and triggers of allergic responses.

Increasing Peanut Problems

With this information on environmental allergens and skin related development of allergic responses, additional research has been performed on the topic of nuts and allergies, and data has been found to prove that drive roasted peanuts are actually are actually substantially higher in risk for the development of an allergy than plain, naturally shelled peanuts alone. The University Herald reported: “Researchers from Oxford University say that specific chemical changes caused by the high temperatures of the dry roasting process are recognized by the body's immune system, 'priming' the body to set off an allergic immune response the next time it sees any peanuts.”

This leads to other questions and concerns regarding how strong the impact of processed foods and prepackaged ingredients is on these allergic responses, and whether or not more natural foods might have less harmful effects on children.

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