Peanut allergies among children soar to 16,000, medical expert warns

PEANUT allergies are becoming increasingly common in Ireland, with upwards of 16,000 Irish children affected by the potentially serious condition, an expert warned.

The allergies are the most common cause of fatal food-related allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) but not all sufferers experience a severe reaction. Some just suffer mild swelling.

In an article in the Irish Medical Times, Professor of Paediatrics and Children Health at NUI Cork, Professor Jonathan Hourihane pointed out that 80% of those with a peanut allergy will react when they eat their first peanut.

Most people only suffer a reaction when eating a peanut but, in more severe forms, the allergy can mean that sufferers cannot touch a peanut, smell one or even kiss somebody who has eaten peanuts. !!!

A majority of peanut allergic individuals have other allergic conditions such as eczema or asthma.

However, diagnosis with a peanut allergy does not mean sufferers have to avoid peanuts forever.

Prof Hourihane said that a quarter of children with the allergy can eat a small amount of peanuts by the time they are aged 10.

“Management of peanut allergy has changed from merely making the diagnosis to implementing regular reviews of the allergy and repeating blood and skin tests regularly.

“With no definitive treatment at present, the mainstays of treatment for peanut and other severe food allergies are the 3 As — awareness, avoidance and adrenaline,” he said.

Doctors say that parents should arm themselves with the latest information about the condition and that they should encourage normal social activities but be careful of feed prepared by non experts, such as waiters and restaurant staff, who might not know much about allergies.

Prof Hourihane, who completed a doctorate on peanut allergy, also advised that patients should be taught to self-administer adrenaline injections and encouraged to carry two auto-injectors.

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