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Jane Bell
whose three-year old daughter suffers from multiple allergies
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Dr Adrian Morris, NHS allergy clinic, Surrey
discusses if GP's aren't trained to spot allergies sufficiently
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Sunday, 3 June, 2001, 23:57 GMT 00:57 UK
Peanut warning for eczema sufferers
Peanut allergies are becoming more common, say scientists
Peanut allergies are becoming more common, say scientists
Scientists are warning that peanuts and peanut oils may cause allergies in children with eczema.

They found that 90% of children with peanut allergies had previously had eczema.

Peanut allergy can cause anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal.

The link between the two conditions has not yet been confirmed, but scientists have speculated that exposing broken skin to peanuts or peanut oils - otherwise known as arachis oils - could spark off the allergy.


We are currently looking into whether exposure of the skin to products containing peanuts or peanut oils may be responsible for starting peanut allergies

Dr Gideon Lack,
St Mary's Hospital
However, allergy experts have said parents should not change their habits until the full details of the research have been revealed.

The study has also found as many as one in 100 children may have peanut allergies - previous estimates had suggested the figure may be one in 200.

The findings on eczema and peanut allergy were discussed at conference on child health on Monday, which marked a 10-year-long research study called Children of the 90s, is following 12,000 children and their parents from the Bristol area.

Otherwise known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), it is looking at the genetic and environmental causes of conditions including asthma, food allergies, depression and cerebral palsy.

Exposure

Dr Gideon Lack, from St Mary's Hospital, London, carried out the study into eczema.

He said: "In eczema, the skin barrier breaks down and there is an abundance of immune cells in the skin that could be exposed to substances that cause allergies.

"We are currently looking into whether exposure of the skin to products containing peanuts or peanut oils may be responsible for starting peanut allergies."

Dr Lack also suggested that recent research contradicts the Department of Health's current advice to pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers to avoid peanuts.

His research has found the amount of peanuts eaten by mothers during pregnancy and whilst breast feeding makes no difference to whether or not the child develops a peanut allergy.

Re-evaluation

David Reading, director of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, said he was not surprised to hear of the increase in the numbers of children with peanut allergies, and said the finding suggested all schools should have a policy to deal with anaphylactic shock.

He said: "If these findings are proved to be the case, then there will most certainly have to be a re-evaluation of the creams that are on the market, and Department of Health guidelines would have to be changed."

But he said parents should not make any changes until the full results were known.

A spokeswoman for the National Eczema Society said they would not be able to comment until they had seen the full study.

Eczema 'cause'

Professor Marcus Pembrey, director of genetics for ALSPAC, said research has revealed more about why certain children may develop eczema in the first place.

He told BBC News Online he and Dr Robin Callard from the Institute of Child Health found a variation in a gene called IL4 receptor, which 6% of the general population have.

"We showed that this predisposed children to develop eczema, but only in those children who hadn't had infections, and had been given antibiotics, in their first six months."

"Having this genetic variation does not automatically mean you get eczema - only in certain circumstances."

ALSPAC is about to receive 13m of funding from the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and Bristol University, enabling it to continue its work for another five years.

It is also carrying out other studies - including one into whether women with high testosterone levels have girls with tomboy behaviour.

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See also:

09 Feb 01 | Health
Peanut allergy 'may fade away'
05 Dec 00 | Health
Bid to tackle peanut allergy
13 Jan 01 | Health
Help for nut allergy sufferers
11 May 01 | Health
Bid for better allergy care
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