June 12, 2006

New Study: You Only THINK The Kid's Allergic To Peanuts

When the kid first started on solid foods, we did the whole "test one grain cereal at a time to see if she's got a sensitivity to it" thing. And when she spouted a diaper rash the week she started oatmeal, we went back to just rice, and picked up again with the oatmeal a while later. All by the book.

Milk at a year, strawberries after that, peanuts not yet, even [we know we're probably overly cautious], and on and on. It seems like the entire solid food process is driven by hypersensitivity to food sensitivity. And yet, it seems like everywhere you turn, there are more kids with food allergies. It's enough to make me want to move to a mesa somewhere, eat maize and just wear hemp.

But then I read the results of this new study from the University of Portsmouth [uk], where they actually tested a 1,000 or so babies for food sensitivity. Turns out 54% of them were reported by their parents to have a sensitivity, but when they were double double secret blind tested, only 2-6% actually had identifiable sensitivities.

So...what, parents should be a bit more cavalier about what they feed their kids? So go ahead, make that kid a gluten, lactose, and peanut butter smoothie for his first birthday? I have a feeling there'll have to be another dozen or so studies like this and a few more revisions to the What to Expect books before parents back down on the allergy thing.

Infants' food allergies less common than parents believe [cnn]
"Incidence of parentally reported and clinically diagnosed food hypersensitivity in the first year of life" [abstract, nih.gov]

11 Comments

double double secret blind tested
Is this some Animal House designed experiment. Maybe they need to test the placebo effect directly on the parents instead of indirectly on this kids.
"These are not the food allergy symptoms you are looking for"


We were overly cautious with our first kid in terms of food, errr, make that about everything. With the second, you don't have enough arms, eyes, hands and so we are moderately cautious with him. We can't wait until the magical day the Tot-doc gives us the blessing that the little one may taste from the Milk of Cow and that other dairy contraband can be served to the 1 yo at the same time as the 3 yo.

We were overly cautious, too. The only thing we haven't given our almost 2 year old yet is nuts (although, we have given her things manufactured in a facility which processes peanuts, so she must not be hyper-allergic).

Of course, recently we've refused to give her things she's asked for when we ask what she wants for dinner, such as elephants and tigers (first, she doesn't eat meat, and second, I hate to cook a whole elephant when she'll hardly be able to eat even an ear).

I have to admit I was one of those overly cautious parents. I was convinced my daughter had a dairy allergy and an egg one too. I got allergy testing done when she was 14 mos old and she was cleared of EVERYTHING, even cockroaches. I still haven't given her peanuts though.

I think the whole food sensitivity thing is a bit crazy. We fed our first-born son peanut butter well before a year. Millions of us were raised eating it. And we were fine. Don't sweat everything so hard. It's easier than you think.

There's some preliminary research (in Toronto) about an enzyme present in the blood of people who have fatal reactions to peanuts. The article is archived, so if you want it you'll have to pay for it

I think in 20 years we'll be able to have some more definitive answers about who's allergic to what.

I know someone that babysits/nannies a little girl around 1 year and she is convinced that the child is allergic to all animal products so she has switched her formula with a blend of carrot juice/almond milk/soy. I keep wondering if that is healthy (and if the baby really has the allergy, since my well meaning friend is very earth crunchy to begin with) especially since she told me what a 'tan' she has even though she uses sunscreen. I'm wondering if it's too much sun or too much carrots- but I can't imagine either is an ideal.

[crazy vegans always seem to be starving their kids with their made-up diets. Your friend should get that kid to a doctor. Oh, and I don't want to hear about vegan-bashing. There are plenty of normal vegans, too; I'm just talking about the crazy ones.-ed.]

We're vegetarian, but our daughter did have a sensitivity to cow's milk (and goat's, as we missily discovered one night), but we knew that she needed more than just soy milk when she was little. We went with Nutramigen at the doc's suggestion. We were fortunate enough to convince the insurance company that we should be reimbursed for it (for a year).

Thankfully our doctor is a reasonable human first, and a shill for the big pharma/baby-industrial complex second. He says to feed the little monkey whatever we are eating. (Which of course is what we would do, within reason, regardless of what the freaks in the white coats say anyway). As a result she eats essentially everything. We shoot for a balanced diet of organic, whole foods as much as is practical, but often fall off the wagon for thai or indian, etc. And at 10.5 months our little cheese head is one of Artisanal's best customers (gotta love that Cantalet)! My advice (worth what you pay for it): when your baby is ready for solids, feed her real food, and lots of variety! If there is a genetic disposition to intolerance of a certain food, you will find out sooner or later. Use the early months to cultivate a sophisitcated palate and an adventerous eater. Establish good habits!

[lol, high five on the cheese snobbery. My foodie mom was ready to give me the third degree when the kid asked for Gruyere a while back, but she's come around. Question, though: Is there a changing table at Artisanal? -ed.]

No changing table. But you can use the bar.

No food allergies in either family, and although cautious, I was convinced that we were in the clear. Following the advice of Canada's leading pediatric nutritionist (in a book recommended by our GP), I tried our daughter with nuts (a tiny amount of chopped walnut sprinkled on her oatmeal one morning) at 14 months. Good thing we had children's benedryl on hand -- after less than 2 spoons she started crying and fussing, and within a couple of minutes had hives around her mouth. We gave her benedryl, but in the 10 minutes it took to take effect, her windpipe started getting constricted.

Her allergy to tree nuts (fortunately not as bad as a peanut allergy, although they have to be avoided too) was confirmed by an allergist, who told us that she was likely sensitized to nuts through her diaper cream, which contained almond oil. Almond oil is frequently found in natural care products, especially for babies (burt's bees, weleda, and many others use it).

He told us that someone is at high risk for a food allergy if there are any of the following in the family:
1) exzema;
2) a food allergy
3) ANY sort of allergy.

In our case, he said our daughter inhereted her food allergy from her father's allergy to cats (so mild, that we have cats).

Apparently, the recommendation is now that children avoid nuts, peanuts and shellfish until they are 3 years old; if there is a history of allergies in the family, the recommendations have ranged as late as 5.

Since dairy, wheat, grains, fruit sensitivities and so forth are generally not anaphalactic allergies, and are usually outgrown within childhood, I don't think you have to be too paranoid to exposing your child to them.

But since nut (tree nut and peanut) and shellfish allergies are potentially fatal and are usually life-long (although they now think that maybe 20% of peanut allergies may be outgrown), great care should be taken in exposing children to them.

And they are on the rise; in our daughter's Montessori, 3 out 14 children have nut and peanut allergies.

We were cautious, but not overly so. We didn't start any solids until 6 months, but I gave her scrambled eggs before a year a couple of times. We waited until 1 yr to try cow's milk and though she loved it, she broke out in hives where it got on her skin. After the second time this happened, she went to a pediatric allergist who tested her for the most common food allergies and she tested positive for dairy AND eggs. I was still breastfeeding, so I had to eliminate those from my diet as well. She's almost 1.5 yrs now and happily chugs her soymilk.

Her doctor wants to retest her at 2 yrs, which makes me happier than my friend who's pediatrician doesn't want to retest her dairy-allergic son until he's 4.

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