No-one currently knows exactly what causes peanut allergy. But what is known
is that young children seem to be the most prone to it (or in other
words, if you don't have a peanut allergy early in your life it's very unlikely
you'll develop one as you grow older).
As a result, current medical thinking is that the best way to ensure your
develop a peanut allergy is not
to expose them
to peanut products until at least the age of 3 or 4
. Even then, you
child's first exposure should only be to a small amount.
Similarly, adults such as relatives, teachers or other carers should never
force peanut products onto young children if they decline them. The child
may have already learned that they should avoid particular types of foods.
Happily, recent research suggests that up to 18% of children who have
an allergic reaction to peanuts will eventually grow out of it.
But researchers also advise parents of peanut-allergic children to
let a doctor decide if a child has become non-allergic or not. We think that's
This research holds out some promise of making the lives of peanut-allergic
people a lot better
in the future. But right at the moment, a genuine
breakthrough still seems to be several years away.
Treatments are certainly available right now for people who suffer
extreme allergic reactions. But they generally need to be given quickly if
a shock reaction sets in.
So if you run across someone who says "I'm sorry, but I'm allergic to peanuts"
(or other kinds of nut) please be tolerant and compassionate
- especially if they ask you to put away your nuts or decline to eat a certain
dish with you.
It's a very real allergy - and often one of the worst possible
food allergies to have.