Peanut allergies in infants and young children may be related to soy-based foods and peanut oil-based skin creams, according to a study published in the March 13 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
Of the 49 children in the study who developed peanut allergies, 84 percent had used peanut oil-based creams and a quarter had consumed soymilk in their first two years. "I think that based on these findings, many of us in practice will ask families not to use peanut-based products, whether they be in creams, peanut butter or candy, until children do get somewhat older," said Brian Smart, M.D., a spokesman for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Milwaukee.
The researchers are hoping to learn why the number of children with peanut allergies has tripled in the past decade. About 1.5 million Americans are allergic to peanuts and 50 to 100 people die from the allergy each year. Similar results in future studies could pave the way for new strategies for handling peanut allergies, the researchers said.
Smart pointed out, though, that most people who think they have food allergies actually do not. "It's important for those who believe they have food allergies to see an expert because chances are they can eat a much broader diet than they think," he said.
In the same issue, NEJM also published a study on a new drug that is the first to offer protection for those who suffer from severe peanut allergies. A single dose of the drug TNX-901 increased the threshold of sensitivity from one to nine peanuts—enough to thwart accidental peanut ingestion, the researchers hope.
"We believe this will be a wonderful tool, but it will probably be a couple of years or longer until it will be on the market because we need more safety data," Smart said.