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New Research Shows That Children Can Outgrow Peanut Allergies

February 12, 2001|THOMAS H. MAUGH II | TIMES MEDICAL WRITER

At least one in every five children with an allergy to peanuts, the most severe of all food allergies, will outgrow it, according to new research.

Each year, 100 people die as a result of an extreme reaction to consuming peanuts, and thousands live in intense fear of consuming even the minute amounts found in a broad variety of products. The new findings suggest that children should be tested every one to two years to see if the allergy is still present. Adults who have never been tested might also benefit from such a test, the researchers said.

Doctors already know that many people outgrow their allergies to milk, egg, soy and wheat, and it seemed reasonable that the same thing could happen with peanuts. A team led by Dr. Robert Wood of Johns Hopkins University studied 223 people with a well-documented allergy to peanuts. Skin-prick allergy tests showed that 126 of them might have a reduced allergy, and the team invited them to consume 4 grams of peanuts in the presence of physicians, who could react quickly to an allergic reaction.

Of the 85 people who agreed to participate, 48 had no adverse reaction, the team reported in the February Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. That meant that at least 20% of the original group had outgrown their allergy. "Relieving the burden of fear that is caused by a peanut allergy is easily worth going though the challenge" of being tested, Wood said.

Are Drugs Overused for Kids' Ear Infections?

Many children with ear infections (acute otitis media) do not need antibiotics, and the benefits of giving them may be outweighed by the risks, especially the development of resistant strains of bacteria, according to British researchers.

Dr. Paul Little and his colleagues at the University of Southampton studied 315 children, ages 6 months to 10 years, who visited their clinic for ear infections.

The parents were randomly offered one of two treatment strategies: immediate prescription of antibiotics or waiting 72 hours to see if symptoms resolved before using the drugs. On average, the team reported in the Feb. 10 British Medical Journal, the duration of symptoms for those in the first group was about one day shorter and the children suffered one less night of distress.

But the length of absence from school was the same for both groups. At least 77% of the parents in the delay group said they were pleased with the treatment, and most said they would delay visiting the doctor when the children developed future ear infections.

Another Breast-Feeding, Blood Pressure Link

Infants who are breast-fed are less likely to develop high blood pressure later in life, according to another British study. Several epidemiological studies have suggested this conclusion, but the new report in the Feb. 10 issue of the Lancet is the first controlled trial of the hypothesis.

Dr. Alan Lucas and his colleagues at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London studied 926 children who were born prematurely and who had taken part in a feeding study at birth. One trial compared donated breast milk with a formula specifically designed for premature infants. The second compared the premature formula with a conventional formula.

When the team measured blood pressure in the children 13 to 16 years later, they found that those who had received breast milk had a significantly lower diastolic pressure than those who had received the pre-term formula: 81.9 millimeters of mercury compared with 86.1. There was no observed difference in blood pressure in the groups comparing pre-term and normal formula.

Aspirin Could Reduce Pre-Eclampsia Risks

Low doses of aspirin during pregnancy can benefit women who are at risk of developing pre-eclampsia--a dangerous form of high blood pressure--and its complications.

Dr. Lelia Duley and her colleagues at the Institute of Health Sciences in Oxford, England, analyzed 39 trials that included more than 30,000 women at risk.

Their analysis, reported in the Feb. 10 British Medical Journal, showed that women receiving low doses of aspirin or other anti-clotting drugs had a 15% reduction in the risk of pre-eclampsia, a 14% reduction in the risk of stillbirth or neonatal death, and an 8% reduction in the risk of pre-term birth. Low doses are the equivalent of a baby aspirin or half an adult aspirin.

Primary risk factors for pre-eclampsia are previous episodes, diabetes, chronic hypertension, kidney disease and autoimmune disease.

Study Ties Bypasses to Mental Impairment

Many patients who undergo heart bypass surgery suffer a significant and long-lasting loss of brain power, according to North Carolina researchers.

Surgeons have known that people often lose some of their mental sharpness immediately after a heart operation, but many patients seemed to recover fairly quickly. The new study, however, found that this recovery is short-lived.

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