A major milestone happened in my household this past week. My sweet son, Rollins, passed his peanut allergy food challenge. If you are a parent of a child with a severe food allergy, you know what a big deal this is.

For nine years now, we have been hyper-aware of reading food labels, dishes served at get-togethers and restaurants, bringing safe treats to birthday parties, and carrying epi-pens because his life literally depended on it.  The anxiety was often overwhelming as I planned for the possible worst-case scenario any time there was a potential for Rollins to ingest something contaminated with peanuts accidentally.

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Rollins was a year old when he first reacted to peanut butter after trying it for the first time. It was so scary, but Dr. Clore and his team at Allergy & Asthma Specialists guided us every step of the way. We educated Rollins to advocate for himself from the moment he could speak to ask about any new foods and avoid anything he was unsure of. Luckily, we never had to use those Epi-pens we kept holstered to us in case of emergency.

Thankfully, friends, family, and his school have been supportive as well.  Peanut-containing snacks were kept from him and when he was younger, anyone who brought peanut butter sandwiches for lunch sat away from him so the risk was non-existent. I will never forget one day when Rollins came home and told me that his friends asked their parents not to pack PB&J in their lunches so they could sit at his table. How thoughtful was that?

I know some schools locally and across the country even ban peanut products altogether if there is a student enrolled with a severe anaphylactic allergy. To avoid a potentially fatal reaction, parents are encouraged to use one of the numerous alternatives like Sunflower or soy butter in their kid's lunches. Believe it or not, folks have gotten upset about these changes, but if their child was the one being protected, surely they would understand.

Peanut Allergies in Children Have Significantly Increased in the Past 30 Years

Growing up in the early 90s, I only knew one kid with a peanut allergy. His was so bad, he couldn't even be in the same room as a peanut butter sandwich. Since then, peanut allergy rates have skyrocketed. According to FARE, Food Allergy Research and Education, between 2009 and 2016, food allergies increased by 280% in Kentucky. Some states like Maine, North Carolina, California, and Delaware saw increases of over 300%.

Why Do So Many Kids Seem to Have Peanut Allergies These Days?

Numerous factors come into play when it comes to allergies and experts can't seem to come to a consensus as to why so many kids suffer from them. Some believe it has to do with the fact that homes are more hygienic than they used to be. With modern-day cleaning products containing bleach and other strong chemicals, kids' immune systems aren't exposed to germs in a way that trains their bodies how to react to certain allergens.

Genetics can also sometimes determine whether a child will react to a common food allergen. If their parents have an allergy or the child has other environmental allergies or eczema, these can also be signs that they may also have a sensitivity to something they eat. From what I understand, an abundance of immunoglobulin E antibodies is the cause.

AAP Guidelines For Introducing New Foods to Babies

When Rollins was a baby, it was commonly recommended to wait until he was a year old to try peanut butter, so that's what we did. In 2017, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases came out with an interesting study showing the benefits of introducing common allergens as soon as a baby is ready to begin eating solid foods. As long as there isn't a known history of sensitivities or skin conditions caused by possible allergens, that is now best practice. Hopefully, these updated guidelines will prove to be effective in reducing the number of kids with food allergies

How Common Is it For Kids to Outgrow Food Allergies?

Over the years, Rollins had numerous skin tests and blood tests to determine the severity of his peanut allergy. Dr. Clore was always optimistic that he would outgrow it eventually. I never got my hopes up, but this past year both tests showed he was eligible for a food challenge which he passed with flying colors. What an enormous weight lifted off our shoulders. You better believe we celebrated with a good ole PB&J!

According to the Mayo Clinic, "In about 20 percent of people who develop a peanut allergy when they are young, the allergy eventually goes away over time. The remaining 80 percent have some sensitivity to peanuts throughout their lives, although the severity of symptoms varies widely from one person to another."

For kids with peanut allergies, it is still strongly encouraged to avoid exposure and regularly visit an allergist who can look after them until the time comes when they may see improvement. I will be forever grateful to everyone at Allergy & Asthma Specialists in Owensboro and for Dr. Clore's wisdom and kindness in navigating Rollins' food allergy journey.


Sources: Mayo Clinic, Food Allergies Atlanta, Kentucky Herald

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