Why are peanut allergies in kids becoming more common?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
More and more, we're hearing about kids who have severe allergies to peanuts. They don't even have to eat them to have a severe, anaphylactic reaction. They can be in the same room with them or they can touch someone who's had them. Research shows that the number of kids with peanut allergies has doubled over the last few years. It's not exactly clear why, but these are some theories:

- Peanuts contain proteins not found in other foods, and they're proteins that trigger very strong reactions from the immune system.

- Roasting nuts changes the protein, intensifying the reaction. (Peanut allergy rates are much lower in China, where they tend to boil nuts rather than roast them.)

- Processed or genetically modified foods are irritating the delicate lining of infants' GI systems, making them more susceptible to allergies.

- We're exposing babies to peanut products hidden in nonfood items such as skin creams and lotions.

- Emulsifiers and other ingredients added to peanuts to make common forms of peanut butter increase the potential for allergic reactions. Kids who grow up in countries where peanuts are boiled and pure peanut butter -- made from just peanuts -- is used, develop much fewer allergies at a much lower rate.
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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.