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Eating peanuts may reduce chance of allergy’s return

Times Staff Writer

Children who outgrow a peanut allergy might understandably still be reluctant to consume the former allergen. But researchers now say they should overcome that wariness.

Monthly consumption of peanuts, peanut butter, peanut candy or other peanut products can maintain their tolerance, reducing chances of a recurrence, say researchers from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

A study done with Arkansas Children’s Hospital and published in the November issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology evaluated 68 people ages 5 to 21 who had outgrown a peanut allergy and had passed an “oral food challenge,” in which reactions to the peanuts are monitored in a clinical setting.

The researchers found that 34 participants who consumed peanut products frequently and 13 who ate them in limited amounts continued to tolerate them well.

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Three people experienced an allergic reaction. It wasn’t clear how the other 18 participants fared, the study said, because they ate peanuts infrequently or in limited amounts and declined to undergo a follow-up oral food challenge.

Nevertheless, 80% of those who have an allergy to peanuts will not outgrow it.

For those children, reintroducing peanut products into the diet will not help them outgrow the allergy and could have disastrous effects, said Dr. Robert Wood, professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins and the study’s lead author. If a child has not outgrown the allergy by age 6, it is unlikely he or she ever will.

For the lucky few who do outgrow it, however, being able to reintroduce peanut products into the diet “carries a lot of weight in terms of reducing the risk of a severe reaction and anxiety of the family and the need to have medications on hand.... It makes a huge different in the quality of their life,” Wood said. He noted, however, that many kids who’ve had allergic reactions detest peanuts.

Determining whether the allergy has passed can be difficult and risky.

Before peanut products are reintroduced, Wood recommends that children be at least 4 and have passed a blood test that indicates the level of allergy antibodies. If the allergy appears to have subsided, the clinician should then try the oral food challenge.


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