- The prevalence of peanut allergies is increasing significantly, affecting both children and adults.
- A new study shows significant lifelong problems in terms of quality of life among people with peanut allergy.
- Severe allergies can cause stress, anxiety and more.
- The reason for the increased prevalence of allergies is not yet known, but may include genetic predisposition and environmental factors. .
Peanuts are one of the most abundant and important food and oil crops on the planet, grown on about 42 million acres worldwide, according to data published by Purdue University in 2013. But peanuts are also one of the main food allergens and, according to a recent study published in the journal Allergy , the quality of life of people with peanut allergies may worsen.
The researchers analyzed the results of a survey of 1,300 people with peanut allergies in eight European countries as part of the APPEAL-1 (Peanut Allergy Affecting Emotions and Life) study. They found that both children and adults with peanut allergies experience considerable levels of stress, anxiety and uncertainty, as do caregivers of people living with peanut allergies.
In the 30-minute survey, 76% of people with peanut allergies were also allergic to other foods, another 42% had asthma, and 50% had allergic rhinitis .
They assessed their stress levels as follows:
- 40% reported living with uncertainty and high stress
- 90% reported stress due to peanut allergy (and 40% said they were “very” frustrated and “very” stressed)
- 36% reported feelings of anxiety
- 30% said they face tension
This follows a 2017 study that estimated that 2.5% of children in the US may be allergic to peanuts, about an increase of 20% compared to 2010.
Peanut allergies are on the rise and have been for the past 30 years, to the point where it feels almost like an epidemic now. We also see an increase in severe reactions, along with other food allergies in addition to peanut allergies. This means that parents and even adults need to be aware that this is a major problem.
– SUSAN SCHUVAL, MD
Those living with peanut allergies have the following symptoms, which range from moderate to severe to life-threatening:
- Difficult breathing
- Squeezing the neck
- Swelling of the tongue, lips and eyes
Peanuts are one of the most common foods associated with anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction that can be fatal if left untreated. injection of epinephrine and emergency care.
Beyond physical reactions
Efforts to plan for possible exposure to allergies in advance, especially food-based events, such as ordering at a restaurant or going to a family kitchen, can help reduce frustration for both children and parents. as well as for adults with peanut allergy.
In the European APEL-1 study, the quality of life difficulties cited by respondents included the following:
- 65% report feelings of isolation (avoiding uncertain social settings is a common tactic)
- 43% say they have been bullied by their colleagues at least once because of their allergy.
- 71% of parents and caregivers of children with peanut allergies have a high level of anxiety in situations where food is involved.
- General uncertainty about the use of an auto-injector
The prevalence of peanut-containing foods, along with the severity of allergic reactions, have a significant impact on quality of life for those living with a peanut allergy.
Trying to determine a cause
One of the biggest challenges with peanut allergies in both children and adults is that it is difficult to predict who will develop an allergy, especially since some children overcome the allergy, while others will have it for life. Also, adults who can consume peanut butter every day for decades can suddenly have an allergic reaction..
Prediction is almost impossible, largely because no one knows exactly why hazelnuts are so annoying, which makes it difficult to understand why the prevalence is growing so fast, says Schuval. However, there are several theories and many experts believe that several factors are involved.
For example, Schuval says changes in agricultural practices can influence or increase the rates of inflammation from consuming a Western-style diet high in sugar and saturated fats. Another key idea is the «hygiene hypothesis,» he says. Jeffrey Neal , MD, otolaryngologist at Abingdon Ear, Nose & Throat Associates in Virginia.
«There is an idea that we now have less exposure to viruses and bacterial infections throughout our lives,» he says. «Essentially, because we live in more sterile air-conditioned environments and we are not so outdoors, this leaves us immune system unbalanced and predisposes us to allergic reactions. This is true for both adults and children. «
Peanuts also contain a unique protein that is not found in other foods, he adds, and this can trigger an aggressive immune response, but, like other theories, this has not been proven as a reason for such an increase. of cases.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the possible causes, there are two factors that put children at greater risk, says Schuval:
- If one or both parents have a severe peanut allergy
- The presence of an allergy to eggs .
In these cases, the chance of a child having or developing a peanut allergy is so severe that it suggests being extremely careful when introducing peanuts and testing for allergies at least once a year.
What parents need to know
Previously, the advice of allergists and pediatricians was to avoid any allergenic foods, including peanuts, until children are at least 3 years old, according to David Stukus , MD, allergy and immunology specialist in Columbus, Ohio and advisor to the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Then the doctors realized that the advice was counterproductive.
Unfortunately, we now have strong evidence that avoidance is linked to the development of food allergies, while early introduction along with continued inclusion in the diet is an effective prevention strategy for many children.
– DAVID STUKUS, DOCTOR
Another misconception that has recently been corrected: In the past, women were advised not to eat peanuts during pregnancy or breastfeeding, due to concerns that food allergies would be transmitted to their children. Stukus believes that too many mothers have been told that they caused allergies based on what they ate, when there is no evidence to that effect, he says.
At this point, ENCOURAGES Daddy to introduce allergenic foods , including peanuts, in the diet of an infant aged between four and six months, Say Stukus, ideal after I can chew and swallow other solids.
«It’s also very important to keep these foods in your diet consistently,» he adds. «This can prevent food allergies in many children and, more importantly, it is also safe to do so. We need babies to eat a wide variety of foods with different flavors and textures and help them expand their diet. possible. «
There is a misconception that babies are at risk for a life-threatening allergic reaction the first time they eat a peanut, says Stukus. But when babies have allergic reactions to food, they often have a sudden onset of a rash, hives or vomiting that occurs within minutes of ingesting food. This is the reaction to achievement, he advises.
Keep in mind that about 25% of children get older as they grow older, he adds, but the rest tend to remain allergies for life.
«Adapting to peanut allergies, like all food allergies, can sometimes be overwhelming, especially since the best treatment is to avoid it,» says Schuval. «But making a plan for when you go out, shopping carefully, and telling others about your allergy goes a long way.»
What does this mean for you?
If you or your children have allergies to peanuts or other foods, education and planning are of the utmost importance. Know that many people face this problem and that there are many resources available to help you lead a safe life.oh nourishing.