Expert says gross over-reaction to peanuts to blame for ‘nut hysteria’

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A Professor at Harvard Medical School suggests many people today are over-reacting to the threat of peanut allergies in children.

According to Dr. Nicholas Christakis many parents are caught up in an “epidemic” of irrational fears about children having allergic reactions to peanuts products and are in the grip of “nut hysteria”.

Dr. Christakis says the hysteria is such that a school bus was evacuated and decontaminated after a peanut appeared on the floor and he suggests there is a “gross overreaction” to nuts which is simply serving to make allergies worse.

Dr Christakis, along with other experts believes the avoidance of potential allergens may actually make children more sensitised, because they never have a chance to build up a tolerance to them.

It is thought that as many as a quarter of a million children suffer from some form of food allergy but Dr. Christakis this should be put into perspective.

While around 150 Americans die from food allergies each year, 50 are killed by bee stings, 100 struck by lightning. and as many as 10,000 children are admitted to hospital for traumatic brain injury after playing sport and there are no plans to ban sports.

Nevertheless it might be useful if parents are aware of the danger signs of an allergic reaction.

These include facial, lip or throat swelling, rashes that appear and spread quickly, breathing difficulties (from mild wheezing to gasping) and difficulty speaking - there may also be abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, or a sudden feeling of weakness - very young can become unresponsive and “floppy”.

The food allergy will appear every time the food is ingested and if a child often complaints about a particular food making them hurt, take notice especially if the complaints involve the throat or mouth.

Around 7% of people with peanut allergies have a sibling with one too, and many will also have another allergy such as asthma.

The good news is one in five children outgrow their nut allergy by the time they go to school.

The most reliable way to tell whether your child has a nut allergy is by a referral from your doctor to a paediatric allergy specialist.


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