Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Media Causes Peanut Allergies

Anyone who has children probably know a few other parents who claim their children are allergic to certain kinds of foods, including peanuts or nuts. It also seems this is becoming more common. Is this really so? I don't believe so, and I blame the media a bit for making it seem like that.

Here are some interesting bits of trivia:

25% of families believe their children have food allergies. 4% of them actually do.

Peanuts are legumes and the other tree nuts are dried fruits. Allergies to them are different, but it's not uncommon that a hypersensitive person is allergic to multiple things.

About 3-4% of people have reported food allergies. Most of them to certain fruits, then vegetables, then milk, then seafood, then latex, then tree nuts and only 1% of them to peanuts.

The most common reaction to a peanut allergy is eczema (40%) hoarseness (37%) , asthma (14%), anaphylaxis (6%), digestive problems (1.4%).

According to current statistics about the same amount of people get struck by lightning per year in the US as people who get anaphylaxis from peanut allergy.

Yet the Food Allergy Initiative say: "Peanut allergy is one of the most common, serious and potentially fatal food allergies."

Only 13% of severe cases of allergies to foodstuff are to people over the age of 17.

Most of the studies indicating an increase in peanut allergy in the US didn't include an actual allergy test. The widely report study in the UK that shows the occurrence of it has gone up from 0.5% to 1% in the UK was not considered 'statistically significant', especially considering the small sample size. It was obviously not insignificant enough not to make headlines all over the papers.

In other words, adults who claim they have a peanut allergy that will cause serious anaphylaxis, or digestive problems, are extremely rare.

What makes it hard to study it properly is that people with peanut allergies are quite rare and it is quite hard to test reliably. Because of the remote risk of it being fatal the only true test by oral challenge (making them eat it, placebo controlled) is not always done, about 40% of people who respond to blood or skin tests don't actually show symptoms when eating it.

People have the right to believe whatever they like about their own allergies, but the sad news is that according to another study, children who were told that they were allergic to peanuts had more anxiety and felt more physically restricted than children with diabetes.

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