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Peanut Allergies on the Rise

Today, peanut butter is no longer the staple for a hearty student lunch.  With Peanut Allergies on the rise and the number of children who can no longer eat tree nuts has risen by 18 percent since 2010. And peanut allergies has increased by 21 percent (1). Sometimes these allergies are so severe, an allergic child cannot sit next to someone eating these ground nuts without having an allergy-related reaction.

Peanut butter sandwiches used to be the basic sandwich when all other food choices failed. When I was growing up, if my friends and I needed quick and convenient food, we would get a peanut butter sandwich with jelly or honey, or just plain peanut butter; although we named the latter, “The Choke-n-Slide Sandwich.”

Exactly what is an allergy? It is when the human body reacts to a substance, usually harmless, by engaging the immune system. Normally, this protective system engages in a battle against foreign substances called, allergens (2). In some people the body reacts to peanuts, tree nuts and other foods, as though it is a foreign substance. The body’s reaction can be mild or severe. Symptoms can range from a runny nose or a rash to possible death in extreme cases.

Researchers are not too sure why allergies to nuts, especially peanuts, are on the rise. A new study called, The LEAP-On Study, suggests that the rise may be due to introducing these foods to kids too late. Doctors are now recommending to introduce peanut butter during the first four to six months of life. This early introduction has drastically reduced the number of children with peanut butter allergies (3).

If you are looking for a peanut butter substitute, students with peanut allergies often use sunflower seed butter. It has a mildly sweet and roasted flavor. Although it does not taste like peanut butter, it can be enjoyed by those with allergies and can be quite tasty. It is also a good substitute for those with tree nut allergies.

For more information, visit www.peanutfactsallergy.org. This web site has detailed information on introducing peanuts to infants. If you are considering introducing peanut butter to an infant, please talk to your pediatrician, allergist or registered dietitian to receive more information on the topic or to receive guidance. Perhaps peanut butter may become a lunch time staple again.

Pamela A. Williams writes from Southern California.

References:

1.    Kids’ Food Allergy, Especially to Peanuts, are on the Rise. www.consumer.healthday.com  Accessed 03/31/2018.

2.    Medical Definition of Allergy. www.medicinenet.com. Accessed 03/31/2018.

3.    Behind the Headlines: A Pediatrician Talks about LEAP-On.  http://peanutallergyfacts.org.  Accessed 03/31/2018.

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About Pamela A. Williams, MPH, R.D.

Pamela A. Williams, MPH, R.D.

is a dietitian in Southern California.

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