Of the 122 children who
were studied by the research team, 68 reacted only
to peanuts - which are legumes and not nuts - and 20
only to the tree nuts. And while only about a
quarter of the kids were allergic to both, doctors
believe parents should play it safe - the allergies
can, in extreme cases, result in death.
"Although it may be overly
restrictive, we and others advise complete avoidance of TN (tree
nuts) by PN (peanut)-allergic children, except for any
particular TN that was tolerated previously," the researchers
write. "Reasons for this recommendation include the concern that
TN sensitivity appears to be severe and lifelong, that there is
a potential for cross-contamination of TN products with PN and,
finally, that it often is difficult to identify specific nuts in
various processed foods."
Indeed, about 55% of the kids
allergic to peanuts and 30% of those allergic to tree nuts
experienced accidental exposure to them. Most commonly, those
accidents occurred at schools, and were a result of either
sharing food with friends, hidden ingredients in their own food,
cross- contamination with food products containing the allergen,
and school craft projects using peanut butter. The researchers
say accidental exposure also occurs at home and in restaurants -
particularly Asian restaurants in which peanut oil is sometimes
used as a frying agent.
About 83% of the kids with either peanut or tree nut
allergies were breastfed - above the average of about two-thirds
of children. The researchers also found that more than 90% of
the breastfeeding mothers ate either peanuts or tree nuts during
the lactation process.
So far, there is little medical science has been able to do
for the people with the allergies; immunizations developed thus
far have side effects more dangerous than the allergies
themselves. "The only current treatment for these allergies is
strict avoidance of the offending food and prompt recognition
and treatment of reactions," the researchers write. "These
findings emphasize the need for education of families, patients,
caregivers and health care workers in PN and TN avoidance and
treatment of reactions."