Thursday, December 14, 2017
Health

Peanuts for babies? Studies back allergy-preventing strategy

CHICAGO — Two new studies bolster evidence that feeding babies peanuts or other allergy-inducing foods is more likely to protect them than to cause problems.

One study, a follow-up to landmark research published last year, suggests that the early prevention strategy leads to persistent, long-lasting results in children at risk for food allergies. It found that allergy protection lasted at least through age 5 and didn't wane even when kids stopped eating peanut-containing foods for a year.

That means at-risk kids who don't want to eat peanut butter on a weekly basis can take safely take a break, at least for a year.

The second new study suggests that the early strategy could also work with eggs, another food that can cause allergies in young children. It found that allergies to peanuts and eggs were less common in young children who started eating those foods at 3 months of age than in kids who as infants received only breast milk.

The New England Journal of Medicine published both new studies online Friday, coinciding with their presentation at a medical meeting in Los Angeles.

Food allergies are common, potentially serious and sometimes deadly. They're becoming more prevalent in children in many countries, affecting up to 8 percent of kids under age 3. About 2 percent of U.S. kids have peanut allergies.

The results from last year's study prompted a sea change in experts' approach to preventing these allergies. It was the first "to show that early introduction of peanut can prevent the development of allergy to it," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement.

It also led to new draft guidance issued Friday by a panel convened by Fauci's agency. The recommendations include giving at-risk kids peanut-containing food as early as 4- to 6-months of age. Infants at risk are those with severe skin rashes or egg allergies; allergy tests are recommended beforehand.

The agency paid for last year's study and follow-up, and will issue final guidelines after a 45-day comment period. The draft guidance echoes advice issued last year by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical groups in response to the ground-breaking study.

That study involved more than 600 at-risk British infants. By age 5, peanut allergies were much less common in children who had started eating peanut-based foods before age 1, usually peanut butter or a peanut-based snack, than among children who'd been told to abstain.

The follow-up involved most of those children. After a year off, an additional three kids in both groups tested positive for peanut allergies. The allergies remained much less common in the early peanut eaters — affecting just under 5 percent of those kids versus almost 19 percent of the others.

The new results suggest that early introduction of allergy-inducing foods results in "true tolerance" in at-risk kids, said Dr. Stacy Dorris, an allergist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She was not involved in the research.

The second study involved 1,300 study breast-fed British children randomly assigned to get several types of allergy-inducing foods or just breast milk.

The strongest results were with peanut-based food and eggs but there was one hitch. About 60 percent of the early eaters didn't stick to the program. Some may have had immature swallowing skills; some doctors don't recommend starting solid foods until around 4 months of age. But it's possible some parents stopped giving solid foods because they noticed allergy-like symptoms, which may have included false alarms, said Dr. Gideon Lack, a King's College London researcher who led all three studies.

The results suggest feeding these foods to at-risk infants is safe, but often not feasible in infants so young, said Dr. Gary Wong, a Hong Kong pediatrician. He wrote an editorial published online with the new studies.

Still, Wong said the new studies confirm that the old approach to preventing food allergies — avoiding certain foods early in life — is probably obsolete.

"Evidence is really building up. It appears early introduction would be better off than avoidance," said Wong, who is also an associate editor at the journal.

Comments
Florida hospitals call for more funding in effort to address looming doctor shortage

Florida hospitals call for more funding in effort to address looming doctor shortage

The number of doctors practicing in Florida has not kept up with the state’s surging population growth, and more money is needed to recruit and keep them here, hospital leaders said Wednesday.The shortage is particularly acute in four speciality area...
Published: 12/13/17
An overlooked epidemic: Older Americans taking too many unneeded drugs

An overlooked epidemic: Older Americans taking too many unneeded drugs

Consider it America’s other prescription drug epidemic.For decades, experts have warned that older Americans are taking too many unnecessary drugs, often prescribed by multiple doctors, for dubious or unknown reasons. Researchers estimate that 25 per...
Published: 12/13/17
How is Florida’s health? Not so great, report says

How is Florida’s health? Not so great, report says

Florida slightly improved its national standing this year, rising from 36th to 32nd overall in the annual America’s Health Rankings report. But the takeaway for the nation’s third-largest state is that it has a long way to go in many important health...
Published: 12/12/17
Driven by demand, Planned Parenthood opens second clinic in Tampa

Driven by demand, Planned Parenthood opens second clinic in Tampa

The floor-to-ceiling glass windows are heavily tinted and the inside is hidden behind rows of curtains. Security cameras monitor every corner, and only patients with an appointment and valid identification can pass through the intentionally cramped e...
Published: 12/12/17
Video: Jimmy Kimmel holds his baby son, post-heart surgery, in emotional health-care monologue

Video: Jimmy Kimmel holds his baby son, post-heart surgery, in emotional health-care monologue

Jimmy Kimmel was absent from his ABC late-night show last week while his 8-month-old son, Billy, recovered from his second heart surgery. Ever since Billy was born with a heart defect and required immediate surgery, Kimmel has become an outspoken adv...
Published: 12/12/17
Record numbers are signing up for Obamacare in Florida as enrollment period draws to a close

Record numbers are signing up for Obamacare in Florida as enrollment period draws to a close

With just four days left to enroll for health insurance on the federal exchange, advocates for the Affordable Care Act say Florida is headed for a record-breaking year. In week five of the six-week open enrollment period, about 823,180 people signed ...
Published: 12/12/17
A boy shares the pain of being bullied - inspiring thousands to show him love (w/video)

A boy shares the pain of being bullied - inspiring thousands to show him love (w/video)

While fighting back tears, young Keaton Jones couldn’t stop asking one question: Why?"Just out of curiosity, why do they bully? What’s the point of it?" he asks his mother while in the passenger seat of a parked car. "Why do you find joy in taking in...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Legalization of marijuana for adults poses problems for people dealing with teens

Legalization of marijuana for adults poses problems for people dealing with teens

WESTMINSTER, Calif. — After Yarly Raygoza attended the drug prevention program at the Boys & Girls Club here last year, she used what she learned to talk a few friends out of using marijuana.The 14-year-old took the class again this year but worries ...
Published: 12/10/17
Millions gained coverage since Obamacare, but many are worse off as premiums soar

Millions gained coverage since Obamacare, but many are worse off as premiums soar

As open enrollment for Affordable Care Act coverage nears the deadline of Dec. 15, and Florida once again leads all states using the federal exchange at healthcare.gov, Heidi and Richard Reiter sit at the kitchen table at their Davie home and struggl...
Published: 12/10/17
A gift of hands: After loss, a man finds hope from healing ones (w/video)

A gift of hands: After loss, a man finds hope from healing ones (w/video)

ST. PETERSBURG — Francisco Piedra fixed his eyes on the man sitting beside him. His name was Richard Brown, and in his hands he held Piedra’s new ones.The prosthetics were black and plastic. Each one took about 20 hours to build from a 3D printer. Pi...
Published: 12/08/17