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High Household Exposure to Peanut During Infancy Increases Risk of Peanut Allergy

Exposure to peanut during infancy promotes sensitization, but low levels may protect atopic children, according to a new study presented this month at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) in Miami Beach.

Adam T. Fox, MD, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom, and colleagues hypothesized that peanut sensitization occurs as a result of exposure. To test this theory, their study was a survey of children with suspected peanut allergy and the researchers also looked to see what affect early exposure to peanuts had on the children for later allergy. Questions on the survey ranged from how much peanut the mother ate during pregnancy to how much peanut was eaten by other family members during the child's first year of life. Exposure was compared in three different groups of children of the same age: Children with peanut allergy, children with egg allergy but not peanut allergy and non-allergic children. The average weekly peanut consumption for the allergic children was 77.2g, while the totally non-allergic children averaged 29.1g.

The study concluded that exposure to peanuts during infancy promotes sensitization, and that low levels may protect atopic children. In addition, researchers didn't see any signs that mothers who ate peanuts during pregnancy or breast feeding contributed to their children developing the allergy.

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