Going Gluten-FreeMarch 13, 2013

Allergic Kids Exposed On Purpose

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Posted by Alicia Woodward

A new study from a research team at Johns Hopkins University asserts that a percentage of food-allergic children develop allergic reactions after being intentionally given their allergen. The culprit? Most often, it’s the mother, researchers say.

Lead investigator Kim Mudd, RN, and her colleagues looked at 1,170 allergic reactions (mostly to milk, eggs or peanuts) reported by 512 families over a 3-year period. The findings revealed that the children who reacted were intentionally fed their food allergen over 11 percent of the time.

Who did the feeding? In 64% of the cases, it was the mother. Fathers, 21% of cases. Grandmothers, 14%. Other caregivers, 2%.

The reasons? Most often (46% of the reactions), the caregiver thought a small amount of the allergen would be safe. Here’s a list of other reasons given for the purposeful exposures.

  • The caregiver wanted to see if the allergy had resolved. (42%)
  • The child had tolerated a baked form of egg or milk, so the caregiver thought it would be safe. (38%)
  • The child had not reacted to the allergen after an earlier exposure. (29%)
  • The caregiver thought the exposure would help resolve the allergy. (25%)
  • The caregiver didn’t consider the child’s earlier reaction that severe. (24%)
  • The caregiver didn’t think the child’s diagnosis was accurate. (15%)
  • The caregiver believed that a decrease in the child’s IgE meant the allergy was resolved. (14%)
  • The caregiver wanted to test the severity of the allergic reaction. (8%)
  • The caregiver had read an article that influenced her/his decision to try the at-home exposure. (4%)
  • The child was scheduled for an in-office oral food challenge so the caregiver decided to try it first at home. (2%)

What’s behind this dangerous activity? Not surprisingly--frustration and impatience on the part of the caregiver. “They want to have their kids’ and their lives as normalized as possible,” said Mudd, as reported by Medscape’s Kate Johnson (medscape.com).

Don’t try this at home. Every parent of a food-allergic kid identifies with the longing to have their child be well, to be like the other kids, to eat like the other kids. But these feelings must never prompt behavior that puts their child at risk.

Study presented at AAAAI 2013 Annual Meeting, 2-24-13. Abstract 451.