Friday, May 14, 2010

Latest Peanut Allergy News--Guess What, It Tripled in 10 Years!

I know many of you have been hearing these stories lately and a few people have Tweeted me to ask me for links.

Here is a link to a recent story stating that Peanut Allergy Cases Have Tripled in 10Years. The story highlights that peanut and tree nut allergies seem to be increasing by leaps and bounds--with peanut growing at a faster rate than other food allergies.

I've always suspected this just based on my FAAN's Kids Newsletter--nearly every child featured has peanut allergy and most with that have tree nut allergy, even if they have other food allergies those two are in there.

Of course no one knows why this is. I really think we need to find out.

Running concurrently with this story was one in the New York Times on Wednesday that stated food allergies are NOT as prevalent as has been believed.

I think several things are going on here. One: people are mistakenly believing they have food allergies and are not getting a proper diagnosis. They may have a food intolerance (lactose intolerance, celiac disease) or something else entirely. A severe food allergy has the potential to close an airway and cause violent vomiting, wheezing, swelling of the face, etc. It's important to know if you have a true food allergy, both for health and lifestyle reasons. Don't diagnosis yourself, please!

The other thing is that people are getting a positive reading on a blood test and then not reacting to a food. No one is quite sure why this is happening--medical experts are trying to figure out better tests.

Finally, with more awareness of food allergies, more people are getting accurate diagnosis. In other words, yes they have them.

The one thing I hear from folks dealing with food allergies--either they have them or their kids have them--is a sentiment I feel myself. And that's the following: If you're not affected by food allergies then why do you want to disprove them? It really makes our lives harder when this happens.

However, if people really don't have food allergies and claim that they do, that doesn't help us much either. I can't tell you how many times I've read about a restaurant worker or chef who watched an allergic person consume a supposedly allergenic food with no problem. They then have skepticism about anyone who comes in and says they have a food allergy.

As a parent who has witnessed my child have a very severe, life-threatening reaction and then subsequent milder reactions from a miniscule exposure to peanuts, I just want to protect my child. I know this thing is real.

Parents and food allergy folks: what's your take on this?


Anonymous said...

WOW! I wonder why?!?

Personally, I am not surprised that food allergies have tripled in 10 years. I am only 30 years old, and I do not remember a single person with food allergies in my entire K-12 or college education. I never even saw an epi pen until I developed allergies at age 28, was properly diagnosed, and was given epi pens by my doctor. Yet, my sister is a preschool teacher at a Head Start with 300-350 students (ages 2-5), and a little over 50 students have some sort of allergy to either food(s) or bee stings. The teachers and staff were given lessons on how to administer epi pens, and they have a school nurse who dispenses medications (if needed). Clearly, the younger generation has a much high percentage of people with food allergies!

Because I now have food allergies, my sister is very sensitive to kids with them, and does a great job of keeping her room nut-safe without any big hoopla or fanfare, which makes the kids with allergies feel so included in everything and "normal" just like the other kids. She is currently advocating to have a no-treats rule on birthday parties, but has sadly had parental resistance.

What makes me so frustrated (at times) is how insensitive people can be toward those of us with food allergies. Is is really so hard to ask you not to eat nuts on 2-hour flight? Is it really so inconvenient for parents if teachers expect no-nut snacks at schools? Is it really that difficult to accommodate a PA person at family dinners, holiday dinners, work parties, etc.? I cannot imagine the emotional pain children and teenagers go through, if they have food allergies! I've heard the most awful comments, and only my closest family and friends have made accommodations for me. A lot of people don't take it seriously, or think it's all made up in my head, or do not include me in the events I've been a part of for years, because it's "too hard" or "everyone else likes nuts".

I hope that researchers can figure out what is causing such a high rate of food allergies, so that fewer people will have to suffer. It's hard enough to deal with the physical reality of food allergies, but honestly, the emotional component has been far harder for me!

Overall, my question is "Will society be prepared for these little ones with food allergies to enter the college campuses, workplaces, etc.?" In 10 years, these kids will need accommodations, and I don't think the general public is ready for it!

JaneS said...


I've been searching for answers since my son has been dx with peanut and tree nut allergies, and the new fast growing nightmare on the block, sesame allergy. I think the following books start this very important discussion:

I think Robyn O'Brien's book "The Unhealthy Truth" describing how GMO soy has been shown in studies to permanently change our gut flora (gatekeeper of immune system) and make it more susceptible to react to the certain protein in nuts.

The Unhealthy Truth: One Mother's Shocking Investigation into the Dangers of America's Food Supply-- and What Every Family Can Do to Protect Itself

Also Dr. Gary Huffnagle's book "The Probiotic Revolution" describes his animal studies and how he induced egg allergies with first treating with antibiotics. We have radically changed our gut flora post WWII with common use of antibiotics. Gut flora is the "Forgotten Organ" of the body; it's role is ignored by mainstream medicine, yet evidence is that it is vital to the proper working of the immune system.

The Probiotics Revolution: The Definitive Guide to Safe, Natural Health Solutions Using Probiotic and Prebiotic Foods and Supplements

More science on gut flora and immune system in Kelly Karpa's "Bacteria for Breakfast"

Bacteria for Breakfast: Probiotics for Good Health

These books all have solid science behind them, but they attack some sacred cows in our society. We have done this to ourselves.

Jenny said...

I am also troubled by the growth of peanut and tree nut allergies, but food allergies have always existed.

I understand where Jane S is going with her hypotheses, but I don't subscribe to the guilty "we've done this to ourselves" mentality.

Do we need to be concerned about our food supplies and use of medicine. But consider: In the old days, before antibiotics, kids died of simple things like strep throat (aka scarlet fever) or infections that today would be easily curable.

People have always struggled with health challenges--it's part of being a human being, unfortunately.

caramama said...

The increased rates of allergies is pretty amazing. I truly hope more money goes into the research for why this is happening, how to prevent and how to have more accurate diagnosis. Our daughter had a negative blood test, but positive skin test for peanuts, included actual peanut butter not just the extract. She is definitely allergic, but the blood test said she wasn't. That. Is. Scary.

As for saying you are allergic when you aren't really, I can actually understand. For example, I cannot STAND bananas. The smell and taste make me nauseous. As I've started to do real research into food allergies, I'm starting to realize I probably have a sensitivity to bananas, though not a true allergy. However, because I couldn't stand them for most of my life and can taste even a hint of raw bananas in anything, I would very occasionally tell people I'm allergic just so they would really check to be sure there was no banana in them. It never even occurred to me that people either would "test" me or that what I was doing was undercutting the seriousness of others with severe food allergies.

I think people also forget that there are different levels of reactions to food. My coworker has allergies to raw fruit, and if he eats it, his reaction is mostly internal but not anaphylactic. Therefore if he ingests them in a restaurant, people there will likely not see the reaction that may be starting but comes on stronger as time goes on. Also, if it's cooked, he can eat most of them fine. So he has allergies, but someone "testing" him would not see the outcome of slipping him that food.

There is just so much to all of this. Way more research needs to be done. And people should really be more understanding and sympathetic. You never know when you are going to develop one or have a family member develop one!

Marina said...

At what age children should eat the peanuts?

Jenny said...


Many doctors recommend introducing peanuts at age 3 but please consult your own doctor about this. For example, if a child has a severely allergic sibling, they may need to be tested for allergies before introducing the new foods.

As always, everyone should ask their own doctors about specific questions about when to eat certain foods. Thanks.

Marina said...

We do not long from now to 3 years, I think, to refrain, even though I give a little bit to try new food.