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Can dogs detect peanuts for kids with peanut allergies?

Lawrence T. Chiaramonte, MD
Allergy & Immunology
A new element has entered the peanut allergy discussion, which is the training of dogs to detect peanuts in a child's vicinity. Inspired by drug- and bomb-sniffing dogs, these animals travel with their kids to malls and birthday parties - anywhere they might encounter stray allergens. The pooches carry emergency medication in special pouches.

I feel that children with sensitivity levels so extreme that they might benefit - down to fleeting exposure to dust or touch, as opposed to actual ingestion - are rare. The economics are extreme: $10,000 to $15,000 to train each dog, so it's hardly a mass solution. Carrying injectable rescue medication - EpiPen or Twinject - is an effective fail-safe. Research shows that fatalities generally result from unexpected exposure, like climbing a mountain with a companion who is carrying energy bars that contain trace peanuts. Or when someone who is unaware of their allergy is exposed to peanuts a second time. Under any other circumstances, a 911 call should bring life-saving relief in time.

Finally, traveling with Fido could engender a false sense of security, and somehow excuse parent and child from developing the skills they need to be vigilant on their own behalf. You can't take a dog with you everywhere. Does that mean a child can only go where his "bubble" will allow?

And we can envision the day when the peanut-allergic kids face off against the dog-allergic ones. Something's got to give.
Asthma Allergies Children: A Parent's Guide

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Asthma Allergies Children: A Parent's Guide

Asthma and allergies are at epidemic proportions. It doesn't have to be that way. Two experienced pediatric allergists tell everything a conscientious parent needs to know about these conditions,...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.