Children are presenting with nut allergies at an all-time high. School and child care centers have made significant changes in how they handle snack and meal times. There are new rules in place to protect allergic kids. This problem affects the entire population, as it limits other families from including nut products in lunches and other dishes. Suddenly, everyone is more conscious about reading labels before purchasing and serving food. EpiPens have become a standard addition to first aid kits, as well. Researchers have been trying to figure out the elements that have elicited this massive change in dietary tolerance.
One big change in prenatal care involves extreme attention to the diet. There are numerous foods that pregnant women are asked to refrain from eating during gestation. The limitation of peanut products is common practice during these months. At some point, doctors started to question the possibility of negative exposure in the womb. This precautionary measure has been questioned, as well. It has been theorized that the complete removal of nut products from the mother’s diet may set up the child’s immune system for failure. Obstetricians vary in their advice on this subject.
Abstinence from nut items in the diet often extends to the breastfeeding months. The same advice given to pregnant women is also passed on by pediatricians. Many prefer to keep babies from being exposed to something known to cause dangerous anaphylactic reactions in some children. Allergy testing is started as early as two years old to determine if nuts are an issue. The same question arises for breastfeeding concerning the possibility of initiating an allergy by avoidance. The body is thought to treat nuts as an enemy when exposure is non-existent. Many doctors of young patients, however, do not want to take the risk of allowing the food.
Research on food preparation has brought about some theories on how children develop nut allergies. In America, nuts are often roasted and made into peanut butter. This usually a child’s first experience with nuts. In other countries, varieties in preparation, combined with lower numbers of allergic individuals, lead scientists to theorize about introduction methods. Common preparation in less developed countries involves the boiling of peanuts instead of roasting. Some research has been initiated on the effects of alternate serving methods and the body’s reaction. Reactions to foods are a complicated situation.
The Early Years
Early childhood is a time of building good dietary habits. This is the time when many children enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Most of us have childhood memories of peanut butter sandwiches on a daily basis. This staple food, however, has become a problem for many. Allergies at this age are monitored closely, as some children do outgrow them.
The severity of a nut allergy also varies from person to person. Some children must be isolated during school lunch periods to avoid the smell of peanut butter. Reactions happen as an airborne response to the allergen. Other children have less complicated responses and may only need to avoid eating the item, while being in the same room is acceptable. Detailed testing is usually completed several times during the early years to monitor severity changes. Direct exposure to peanuts is often used, as well. Therapy to reverse the allergy is a new consideration, and may start some time during childhood. It is thought that the allergy will remain for a lifetime if it does not decline by the adolescent years.
Peanut oil is a common substance used to fry foods in restaurants. This product is often avoided by nut allergic individuals. The proteins, however, are often the only culprit of a nut allergy. When peanut oil is prepared, the proteins are removed. This process is usually enough to make these foods safe for many allergy sufferers. The ability to consume this oil leaves more questions about how the body reacts to allergens and preparation methods.
Nut allergies have caused various issues in public places, recently. Restaurants often have to offer clear warnings of ingredients to avoid liability. Diners with allergies may have a hard time finding a safe place to eat, as well. Schools and daycares have had to put many protocols in place to keep student safe. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and early childhood are important years to consider when studying the development of allergies. This issue has come close to becoming an epidemic. Are there any nut allergies in your family? What do you do to keep everyone safe?