Peanut bans in schools often lead to a flurry of angry phone calls and letters to local newspapers. Some communities even circulate petitions asking school officials to change their minds. Parents of children with these allergies will tell you it is not to be taken lightly and to watch their child having an allergic reaction once is not something they ever want to have happen again. A new study shows that possible early exposure may lessen or completely remove the allegic reaction.
More schools than ever are banning peanuts and peanut products as the number of kids diagnosed with the potentially life-threatening allergy has climbed dramatically in recent years. While doctors try to figure out the reasons for the rise, the situation pits parents against each other and puts school districts in the middle. Today, there are 400,000 school-age children with peanut allergies.
A study released on March 4, 2016 in The New England Journal of Medicine called the Learning Early about Peanut Allergy (LEAP) trial showed that among infants at high risk for allergy, the sustained consumption of peanut, beginning in the first 11 months of life, resulted in an 81% lower rate of peanut allergy at 60 months of age than the rate among children who avoided peanuts.
As a follow up to the original study, the Persistence of Oral Tolerance to Peanut (LEAP-On) study was conducted. This was a 12-month extension of the LEAP trial. This follow-up study was a two-group comparison that involved all the eligible participants in the two groups of the primary trial at 72 months of age. This follow-up study showed that the reduction in the prevalence of peanut allergy that was associated with the early introduction and consumption of peanuts until 60 months of age persisted at 72 months of age after 12 months of not eating peanuts.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology lists a reaction to peanuts and peanut products producing such symptoms as:
- Rashes such as hives, redness or swelling
- Itching or tingling in or around the mouth and throat
- Digestive problems such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting
- Tightening of the chest
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Anaphylaxis, which may include facial swelling, difficulty breathing, weakness, a sudden drop in blood pressure and/or collapse. It is important to recognize that anaphylaxis can be signaled by collapse or drowsiness rather than by a rash or breathing difficulty.
Children and adults who are known to be peanut allergic need to carry epinephrine. These auto-injectors that you inject quickly into your thigh, and it gives you an injection of epinephrine. And you need to take an antihistamine instantly and most often, in fact, virtually always, they need to be brought into an emergency room to keep watching, to make sure there isn’t some delayed reaction.
As to whether this will end the vigorous debate about banning peanut products in a school, Dr. Phil Lieberman, M.D of the AAAAI.org refuses to take a firm stand on the issue, but instead wisely focuses on the treatment and management of allergies.