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Study advises allergen exposure

A new study found that feeding babies allergenic foods can reduce the chance of developing a food allergy later in life.

The study is a follow-up of research conducted in 2015 by the New England Journal of Medicine. It suggests that early introduction of peanuts or other allergenic foods into the diet could be the key to preventing children from developing food allergies and could provide long-lasting results.

Anna Nichols, junior English education major, has been severely allergic to peanuts since she was an infant.

“I will be hospitalized if I eat peanuts,” Nichols said, who has been hospitalized due to peanut consumption five times.

Nichols said that introducing allergenic foods into the diet early on could prevent allergies, but for her it may not have worked considering she’s been allergic since a very early age. She thinks that it is a good option for people with less severe allergies and said that if she had the resources and time for immunotherapy, she would take advantage of it.

Austin Hudson, freshman math education major, has been allergic to peanuts since he was 3, but he only discovered he had a severe peanut allergy in 2012.

“I was officially diagnosed in 2012. Before I found out I was allergic, I was able to eat peanut butter just fine. I for sure found out when my sister gave me a brownie with peanut butter chips in it-that was the worst night of my life,” he said.

Eating peanuts “will cause me to die,” Hudson said. “And just the smell causes headaches.” Fortunately, Hudson said that avoiding peanuts is not too difficult. However, he said it is frustrating when he gets a headache because someone is eating peanut products near him and he can’t do anything about it.

On the other hand, Nichols said that moving to college was a difficult shift, because she had to be more responsible for the foods she ate.

“Eating in the caf has been a challenge,” she said. “I almost accidentally ate some peanuts in the caf the other day because the food was unlabeled. So far I haven’t been hospitalized from anything at the caf, but it’s difficult.”

The study claims that eating foods that contain peanuts is safe after continuous introduction of allergenic foods because the immune system appears to remember and sustain its tolerant state.

“The study results have led to new draft guidance. Now, the recommendations include giving at-risk peanut-containing foods by the time children are four to six months of age,” according to the study.

The study notes that early introduction would be better off than avoidance. However, while Hudson thinks that tolerance therapy is an effective option, he has no desire to try it.

“You can do the therapy process of starting with [trace amounts] and work your way up or just completely avoid it. When you bring it back into your diet you have to eat it every day to build up the immunity. I’m not a big fan of peanut butter anymore. I just don’t like it,” Hudson said.