Pregnant women may need to keep their hands off of Mr. Peanut if they don’t want to predispose their infants to an increased risk of peanut allergy. In a new study of 503 infants aged 3 to 15 months with suspected egg or milk allergies or with eczema and positive milk or egg allergy tests, blood tests revealed that 140 infants had a strong sensitivity to peanuts. Milk or egg allergies are associated with an increased risk of peanut allergy, although none of the babies in the study were formally diagnosed with peanut allergy.
Published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the researchers believe that a mother’s peanut consumption during pregnancy is a strong predictor of peanut sensitivity in their infants.
Not wholly convinced by the results, ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan thinks the data presented is counter-intuitive. “I thought it actually worked the other way: If the mother eats more peanuts throughout her pregnancy, then the child is less likely to be allergic to them.”
Perhaps it’s a moot point anyway, since as Dr. Whelan points out, “Hopefully in the future, we can use biotechnology to groom peanuts to be allergen-free. It’s the way of the future.” She adds, “But if you’re peanut sensitive now, you have to learn how to live with peanuts in the cuisine around you, and you must be very careful with everything you eat.”
“Without any evidence or data, you’d think that greater peanut consumption would indeed induce a greater tolerance for it in the infant,” seconds ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “Some studies have shown that peanut ingestion during pregnancy reduces the child’s risk of allergy, others have shown the opposite. It could be the amount of nuts consumed. Anyway, as Dr. Whelan says, kids with peanut allergy need to be aware of everything they eat, and carry an Epi-Pen as a rapid antidote in case of exposure, which can rapidly cause anaphylaxis.”