Monday, December 9th, 2013
A new method of treating–and possibly even curing–severe peanut allergies is being developed and tested by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital. More from Boston.com:
In a small study involving 13 children at high risk for having severe allergic reactions to peanuts, Boston Children’s Hospital researchers first administered an injectable asthma drug every few weeks for 12 weeks, before having the children eat peanuts, in order to dampen their immune system’s response to peanut protein. The children continued to receive the drug—called omalizumab—for another 8 weeks as they gradually ate an increasing number of peanuts.
Twelve of the children were eventually able to eat the equivalent of 10 peanuts a day even after they went off the drug, according to the findings published in the December issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Most did, however, experience allergic reactions during the first few weeks before their immune systems became desensitized to the peanut protein. Five children had moderate allergic reactions such as wheezing, nausea, and shortness of breath, and two children had more severe reactions like a full-blown asthma attack. One child dropped out of the study after experiencing nausea and vomiting from eating peanuts, which didn’t abate for several weeks.
(None of the children had side effects from omalizumab, which in rare cases can cause life-threatening allergic reactions like anaphylaxis.)
“An important goal is to prevent life-threatening allergic reactions in those who eat peanuts accidentally,” said study leader Dr. Lynda Schneider, director of the allergy program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “We’re cautiously hopeful that some will be able to include peanuts in their diet every day, but we’re not ready to call this a cure.”
Image: Peanuts, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
The age at which a baby is offered her first solid food may affect the likelihood that she develops food allergies later in childhood, according to new research by British scientists. Breastfeeding exclusively for 4-6 months, then introducing solid foods while still breastfeeding, the researchers found, is the best way to prevent food allergies from developing. More from The New York Times:
British researchers followed a group of 1,140 infants from birth to 2 years, while their mothers completed diaries detailing the babies’ diets and noting suspected allergic reactions to food, which researchers later confirmed by testing. They found 41 babies with confirmed food allergies, and compared them with 82 age-matched healthy controls. All were born between January 2006 and October 2007.
After controlling for birth weight, the duration of pregnancy, maternal allergies and many other factors, they found that 17 weeks was the crucial age: babies who were introduced to solids before this age were significantly more likely to develop food allergies.
The study, published online in Pediatrics, found that continuing to breast-feed while introducing cow’s milk also had a protective effect against allergies. The authors suggest that the immunologic factors in breast milk are what provide the advantage.
The researchers advised that mothers who are not breastfeeding also wait until after 17 weeks to introduce solids.
Learn how to make fresh baby food at home with our helpful guide. Then, download our charts and checklists to keep track of Baby’s important info.
Image: Baby food, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
The four to six percent of US children who experience food allergies are facing ever-rising costs, amounting to an average of more than $4,000 per child each year. More from CNN.com:
Why so many kids are experiencing allergies to common food items still isn’t clear, although experts suspect that some of the trend can be attributed to improved public health and sanitation efforts that may have made us too clean to build strong enough immunity to common allergens found in food and the environment. Kids not eating things like nuts and shellfish at an earlier age may also contribute to the rise in food allergies.
Regardless of how the shift began, however, researchers reporting in the journal JAMA Pediatrics say that the economic cost of food allergies is also reaching a peak, with families like the Cunninghams spending an estimated $25 billion per year, or about $4,184 per child. About $4.3 billion of those costs involve direct medical fees such as medications and emergency treatments for allergic reactions, with $20.5 billion going to additional yearly costs to families.
While other studies have investigated the economic toll of food allergies, few have studied in detail how these costs affect a family’s finances.
Image: Peanut allergies, via Shutterstock
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Friday, August 30th, 2013
Several companies now offer temporary tattoos that children can wear on their arms to alert teachers, cafeteria staff, and other adults that the kids suffer from severe allergies. Parents report that these tattoos give them a little peace of mind, but critics worry that they set kids up to be bullied. More from Yahoo! Shine:
“Right now there’s a huge awareness, whether because of going back to school or because of the recent incident in California,” SafetyTat founder and mother of three Michele Welsh told Yahoo! Shine. Welsh was referring to the recent tragic death of a 13-year-old girl with a peanut allergy at a Sacramento summer camp. “Unfortunately it sometimes takes something like that for people to say, ‘Wow, it really can happen.’”
Welsh created her 5-year-old company—offering products that include temporary tattoos and long-lasting, write-on skin stickers—after using a ballpoint pen to nervously scrawl her cell phone number on her kids’ arms at a crowded amusement park, in case they got separated, and realizing it was maybe not the best way to go about it.
The moment made her think of other dangers lurking for kids, and how having an actual warning label on the body could be useful to other parents, too—like her sister-in-law, who is mom to a boy with a fatal peanut allergy. “He had spent so much time in the hospital as a toddler, that his mom had begun limiting his time outside the home because she was so fearful,” Welsh said. When she created the tattoos and he wore one to a school trip, the response was immediate, alerting a food server who double checked the ingredient of his salad dressing only to discover it contained peanut oil. “His mom told me, ‘It’s almost like I’m there with him, reminding people,’” she added.
But Yahoo! Shine reports that the tattoos do have critics:
A recent Slate article on the phenomenon of children wearing warning labels raised the issue of bullying, questioning whether the added attention would make them targets of childhood cruelty. It was a concern echoed by American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology spokesperson, allergist Kevin McGrath. “A lot of kids do get bullied at school about their food allergies, so there is some concern about whether this might give more ammunition to kids,” McGrath told Yahoo! Shine.
Image: SafetyTat tattoo, via Yahoo! Shine
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Monday, May 6th, 2013
As many as one in 20 American kids are affected by either skin or respiratory allergies, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found. CNN.com has more:
Food allergy prevalence increased from 3.4% to 5.1% between 1997 and 2011, while skin allergy prevalence more than doubled in the same time period. That means 1 in every 20 children will develop a food allergy and 1 in every 8 children will have a skin allergy. According to the CDC, respiratory allergies are still the most common for children younger than 18.
The new report, which looked at data from the National Health Interview Survey, found that skin allergies decreased with age, while respiratory allergies increased as children got older.
Both food and respiratory allergies also increased with income level, meaning richer families had higher rates of childhood allergies. Hispanic children had lower rates than non-Hispanic white and black children in the survey. The report did not look into the potential reasons for this.
Scientists are still trying to figure out where allergies come from, and why they’re on the rise in the United States. Internal bacteria, genetics and environment may all play a role, says Dr. Edward Zoratti, head of the allergy and immunology division at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
Image: Girl scratching her arm, via Shutterstock
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