A new long-term study has released results that indicate feeding high-risk kids peanuts earlier can actually prevent the allergy. And I'm not happy. I mean, sure, I'm delighted that for every child going forward, these new findings mean peanut allergies could be reduced drastically. I'm elated that studies are being done to limit allergies. I'm just really, really sad that this came five years too late for us.
In recent years, studies seemed to indicate that delaying introduction of peanuts was unnecessary, even detrimental, but even that was too late for my son.
The truth is that Mason (who turned five in December of 2014) has never eaten nuts or peanuts (that we know of). He was born with multiple food allergies, has had other food reactions, and we were told to avoid peanuts and nuts. His skin prick tests for peanuts are positive, though his blood results were negative. So who knows, really? We can't know he's truly allergic without an oral test and they won't send us to Sick Kids Hospital for that oral test until the skin prick is negative, too. It's frustrating.
I believe in science. I believe in study-based evidence. I believe in our allergist who has had years of training in her field.
Why Overreacting to Your Child's Allergies Isn't Helping
But we can't always know the true answers, can we?
This recent study will change everything for parents of kids who are at risk of peanut allergy - those with siblings or parents with the allergy, those with other allergies, etc. The "LEAP" study (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) studied more than 600 babies who had severe eczema (like my son did!) an egg allergy (like my kid!), or both. These are strong indications of risk of peanut allergy, and these were part of the reason we were told to avoid peanuts.
The participants were given small amounts of peanut protein, and then those who had no reaction were broken into two groups. Group One kept children on a peanut-free diet whereas Group Two was instructed to feed babies small amounts of peanut protein across multiple meals every week. It turns out, the kids who were regularly exposed to peanuts had a far lower risk of developing an allergy by age five. Only 3.2% of the children who regularly ate peanuts developed a full allergy, compared with 17.2% of the peanut-free diet group. That's a giant difference! 80% in fact.
Canadian Pediatric Society Changed Food Introduction Guidelines in 2013
And while I am so happy for future babies, I'm so sad my son missed this window. For him, each year brings new testing and so far, more waiting. Will he ever outgrow the allergies? Nobody knows. We still don't know why he has them, how to prevent them, or why this new study works, but the fact that there is positive news for the future is a silver lining, for sure.