Peanut Allergies: Early Introduction Prevention | Loyola Medicine
Friday, March 27, 2015

New study recommends early introduction of peanuts to prevent allergies

Tips to potentially prevent peanut allergies from Gottlieb allergist

MELROSE PARK, Ill. – (March 25, 2015) - Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a dietary staple for many children. But for others, peanut products can be life-threatening and are strictly taboo. A new study released at a meeting of the American Academy and Association of Allergies and Immunology (AAAAI)  and published in the New England Journal of Medicine  suggests that peanut allergies can be prevented through early exposure.

“The importance of this study will really change the way peanuts are introduced in children’s diets,” says Rachna Shah, MD, board-certified allergist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of Loyola University Health System.  Often, peanut introduction is recommended when the child is between 2 and 3 years of age. Pregnant or lactating women may be told not to consume peanuts to prevent allergies. 

More than 1.3 percent of children in America are allergic to peanuts. “Symptoms of peanut allergies are hives, vomiting, rash, shortness of breath, decline in blood pressure and even death,” says Dr. Shah, affiliate faculty member at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “If a child eats or even is exposed to peanuts, a reaction could range from something as relatively simple to treat as hives to a life-threatening episode.”

Treatment for peanut allergies in children currently is limited to avoiding peanuts. Peanut allergies generally cannot be outgrown. If a child is allergic to peanuts, it is likely they will also be allergic to other tree nuts like almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts and pistachios.

Delayed exposure to peanuts did not decrease the development of peanut allergies. In fact, early introduction and regular consumption of peanuts led to a reduced likelihood of developing a peanut allergy after the age of 60 months.

“Bottom line, early introduction of peanuts decreases the frequency of developing a peanut allergy,” says Dr. Shah, who treats many children as well as adults with peanut allergies in her Gottlieb Memorial Hospital practice. “The estimated prevalence of peanut allergy in America is  1.4 to 3 percent  and the numbers are growing so this news offers a potential real solution to prevention.” 

Dr. Shah recommends these tips for introducing peanuts to a child’s diet:

Introduce peanuts in a controlled setting like your home. “The last thing you want, is for the introduction to happen in a restaurant or party where you might not be able to directly monitor the symptoms of a reaction.” 

Introduce a very small amount of peanuts or just a taste. “Wait 30 minutes after offering a taste of peanuts and then give a larger amount. Repeat this after a few days. Sometimes the reaction can occur with second exposure to the peanut.”

Introduce with an age-appropriate peanut source. “Smooth peanut butter or the Israeli snack Bombas that are teething snacks made of peanut powder are great small steps for peanut exposure.”

Assess the likelihood of genetic allergies. “If there is a parent or sibling that has a peanut allergy, the family should seek the advice of an allergist who knows how to introduce peanuts.”

Allergists in Dr. Shah’s office at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital have the sole distinction of conducting the official allergy count for the Midwest during allergy reporting season. Gottlieb allergists are uniquely certified by The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology to perform the Gottlieb Allergy Count

The Gottlieb Allergy Count is available via Twitter @GottliebAllergy, at the allergy page on Gottliebhospital.org and at 1-866-4-POLLEN (476-5536). 

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.