Years ago, there were no restrictions in classrooms on what type of food you were allowed to bring in. Today, in classrooms and cafeterias throughout the country, there are many regulations regarding what can and cannot be eaten or brought into these learning centers.
The number of people who are allergic to peanuts has more than tripled from 1997 to today: from 1 in 250 to 1 in 70. Why? Allergy experts, as well as pediatricians, once agreed that it was better for everyone to stop eating peanuts. This was interpreted as gospel from the medical establishment, and pregnant women made sure not to eat any peanuts when they were pregnant, in addition to not giving peanuts to their child when it was time for them to begin eating solid foods. This resulted in these kids having extreme peanut allergies when they were older. Because they were never exposed to peanuts before, their body perceived peanuts as foreign antigens when they were introduced to them in later stages of their life.
Recently, however, this idea transformed drastically when studies showed that avoiding peanuts was paradoxically increasing peanut allergies. New studies have proven that it is actually better for kids at a young age to start eating peanuts, so that their bodies’ immune system would recognize peanuts as not being foreign substances. Matthew Greenhawt, an allergy specialist at Children’s Hospital Of Colorado says, “There is a window where the immune system isn’t going to recognize peanut as dangerous and that we believe happens very, very early”. With this new data, experts are recommending that kids even as young as 4-6 months old should be introduced to peanuts. Peanut butter and whole peanuts are choking hazards to kids who are this young, so adding a little peanut butter to some apple sauce will enable even a 5 month old baby to get used to traces of peanut butter. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) changed their advice for pregnant women and encouraged them to start eating peanuts when they’re pregnant. Introducing peanuts at a young age will make the body’s immune system more familiar to peanut antigens, and reduce the risk of peanut allergies in the future.
Why do people care so much about preventing peanut allergies? What’s so bad about it? It’s the fact that people can be detrimentally affected throughout their lives, changing their lifestyle and habits to adjust to their limitations. When a person has a peanut allergy, they are forced to be constantly aware of the foods they eat and what others eat near them. When you go to a restaurant, do you even know if peanut oil was used to saute your vegetables? Do you know if the chocolate bar you were given was made in a manufacturing plant that also processes peanuts?
It is clear that medical knowledge changes through the years. Fortunately, the newest research regarding peanut allergies has yielded information that refutes the restrictions on peanuts given in the last few decades. By encouraging children to eat peanuts at an early age, we can decrease allergies in students and possibly even save lives. This is information that we should definitely implement for the good of students and society.