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September 2014


Andy Schatschneider | I Want to Know

I Want To Know

Why are there so many peanut allergies these days?

Over the past several years, more and more children have been diagnosed with life-threatening peanut allergies. There is no one known reason why peanut allergies are on the rise in the U.S., although there are several theories, said Dr. Mary Jo Rolfes-Lo, who works in adult and pediatric allergy and immunology with ProHealth Care.

According to Rolfes-Lo, the development of a peanut allergy may be related to when peanuts are introduced into a person's diet, how much of the peanut allergen is ingested and how frequently peanuts or peanut products are eaten.

In the U.S., peanut allergies started rising at about the same time that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that mothers with a history of allergy avoid peanuts during pregnancy and lactation and wait to add peanuts into the child's diet until the child is 2 or 3 years old. In Israel, where peanuts are introduced before 12 months of age, the peanut allergy rate is .04 percent; in the U.S., the rate is 1 percent, Rolfes-Lo said.

Other theories include a link between peanut allergens and the use of some lotions: In the U.S., people can be exposed to peanut allergens through certain lotions and creams that contain nut oils. Also, it is possible that the use of antacids and other acid-reducing medications can change the way the body "sees" peanut allergen.

Finally, roasted peanuts and emulsified/whipped peanut products (such as peanut butter) have more allergen than boiled peanuts. In the U.S., we eat more roasted peanuts and emulsified peanut products, whereas in Israel and Asia, where peanut allergy rates are lower, people eat boiled peanuts, Rolfes-Lo said.

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