New Approach to Peanut Allergy



We are experiencing an epidemic of children with peanut allergy, and according to recent studies the incidence of peanut allergy has quadrupled in the past 13 years!


Interestingly, this increased incidence is not seen in all countries. One observation was that countries that encouraged infants to eat peanut products in infancy noted that the incidence of peanut allergy was considerably less than in countries that like the U.S. that advised holding off on exposing at risk children to peanuts and tree nuts until they were at least 3 years old.


That observation led British researchers to conduct a trial that involved over 500 infants that were considered to be at high risk of developing peanut allergy. Half were given standard advice to avoid peanut exposure until at least age 3, and the other half, after allergy evaluation by skin testing and oral challenge to insure safety, were instructed to give a certain amount of peanut product weekly. Then at age 5 years, the children were evaluated for peanut allergy. The amazing result - there was a ten fold reduction of peanut allergy in the group that had continuous exposure.


The American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other academic groups, is now changing their recommendations for at risk children. After Allergy evaluation to insure safety, (skin testing and peanut exposure under medical observation), peanut product should be given early in life to PREVENT PEANUT ALLERGY.


At risk children are considered those with significant eczema, egg allergy, or a positive family history of peanut allergy. 


Climate Change and Pollen

Climate change is driven by increased levels of carbon dioxide and pollutants in the atmosphere.  Thinking back to your grade school biology, you may remember that we breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, but plants do the opposite.  Plants use the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to “breathe” and release oxygen as a by-product of their metabolism.  It turns out that plants really like it when there is more carbon dioxide in the air!  In greenhouse experiments, increasing carbon dioxide levels has increased pollen production by 61% to 90% in some types of ragweed.  Another study has shown that a doubling in carbon dioxide levels, from about 300 to 600 parts-per-million, induces an approximately four-fold increase in the production of ragweed pollen.  Similar studies have shown equally troubling results in birch trees.  More pollen means more symptoms.  The impact of climate change on our pollen counts does not stop there, though.  With increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, surface temperature rises.  A “mild” winter means an early start to the allergy season as the trees will pollinate sooner than if the winter had sustained colder temperatures.  This is not experimental-we are actually seeing a trend of longer pollen seasons over the last 30 years.  Longer pollen seasons then lead to an increase in allergy symptoms, including nasal congestion, itchy eyes, and asthma.  There are many reasons to fear climate change, but this is one that is not often reported- as pollution and temperature increase, so do your allergy symptoms.  While we might not be able to reverse the environmental changes that have already occurred, we at Allergy Consultants are always here to help alleviate your symptoms.



Alternative Medications

One in two adults takes a vitamin pill. Over half of the patients that we see are on some "alternative medication" - minerals, vitamins, etc. According to a recent article in the New York Times, alternative medications have sales in this country of over $30 billion dollars a year. It is largely an unregulated industry, and a New York Times op ed noted that these medications have been found to be contaminated with arsenic, other toxic metals, and even androgenic steroids. 
Does the potential benefit outweigh the potential harm? Not according to controlled studies. They do not prevent cancer, heart disease, or prolong life.
For those who are interested in a reasonable discussion on alternative medications, we highly recommend the new book "Do You Believe in Magic" by Dr. Paul Offit. Dr. Offit is a Pediatric Infectious Disease physician at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia. 


Statins and Asthma

Statins are a class of medications widely used to lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks and strokes. Recent studies have found that they also have beneficial effects on the immune system, and in fact adults with asthma on statins have less emergency visits for asthma, and lower needs for oral corticosteroids to treat asthma flares.