Updated 12/05/2012 05:00 AM
Child Wellness: Peanut allergies on the rise
Food allergies, including peanut allergies, appear to be on the rise. According to recent report, eight percent of children have peanut allergies, which can be life-threatening. Marcie Fraser reports.
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"It's more common, we aren't entirely sure why. We are seeing more of it in the last ten to twenty years than before," said Dr. Terese Copeland, an allergist.
Peanut butter has been around for a long time, so why the increase in allergies to it? Some experts say it’s because the way the peanuts are processed has changed. A heightened awareness of the allergy also helps.
"It's more prevalent, I think, in part because we are identifying these people more and we are talking about it more, so the schools are becoming more aware of that and there are many kids that are going to school who have a peanut allergy," said Dr. Copeland.
Younger children need to be monitored more carefully. As a child gets older, they become aware of their allergy and can often manage avoiding peanuts themselves, but let people know.
"School bus driver, the athletic coaches, teachers and the administration, even the janitors if there is anyone in facility who has severe allergy," said Dr. Copeland.
Unfortunately, not everyone is tested and the first time an attack occurs, the severity of the reaction is unknown, some can be mild.
"Itching and maybe a hive or two and can get by with Benadryl and watch the person," said Dr. Copeland.
Other reactions can be severe.
"If there is any question an airway is involved, if the child coughing or hoarse or shortness of breath, any doubt - use an Epi-pen and bring the child to the emergency room," said Dr. Copeland.
Dr. Copeland does caution if you have been treated for an allergy reaction, look for a possible second phase reaction, which can occur four to six hours later.
"Sometimes they go to are may or may not get epinephrine injection and are sent home and possibly, when they get home, they get symptoms and when they are home you have to watch," Dr. Copeland.