Monday, May 11, 2015

New Study Suggests Exposing Infants to Peanut Products Could Prevent Allergy

Once a lunchtime staple for many American children, PB & J is disappearing from lunchboxes since the rise of peanut allergies in recent years, an allergy that, for many children, can be life-threatening.
Blog contributed by Kathleen
Zimmerman, MD, Pediatrician

In the US, about 2 percent of children are allergic to peanuts, a figure that has quadrupled since 1997.  As a result the American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend that peanuts be withheld from children until they were 3 years old. However back in 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its policy, when a committee within the AAP concluded that there was no evidence that delaying the introduction of allergenic food protects against the development of allergies.

Policy or not, many parents are still avoiding allergenic foods for their young children, but surprising evidence from a recent study is proving the AAP policy shift to be the correct approach.

The study, involving infants 4 to 11 months old who had shown a high risk of developing a peanut allergy, indicated that feeding these children peanut products early in life may prevent a peanut allergy.  In the study, half of the children’s parents were told to avoid peanuts, while the others fed their children peanut products regularly.  After 5 years, only 1.9 percent of children who were fed peanuts were allergic to them, compared to 13.7 in the group that avoided peanuts.

According to Dr. Gideon Lack, a professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College, London and leader of the study, not feeding infants peanut products “could have been in part responsible for the rise in peanut allergies we have seen.”

While there is no evidence whether allergies will develop if regular feeding of peanuts is stopped, the results from this study are promising.  As attitudes shift in light of recent evidence, peanuts may start popping up in lunchboxes once again.

Here are some tips to stay safe:

  • Do not feed whole peanuts to infants.  Because of the choking risk, opt for peanut butter or other foods.
  • Get an allergy test if your baby has one of these risk factors for allergy:
    • A sibling with food allergy
    • Had previous allergy to foods
    • Has severe eczema
  • Always try one new food at a time for at least 3 days at a time and watch for rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, or any sign of reaction to that food. 
  • Before feeding peanut products to your child, see your doctor for an allergy test to determine whether your child already has a peanut allergy.
  • Be aware of other children’s allergies.  Always inquire before bringing snacks or lunches that contain peanut products around other children.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Do I have allergies or a cold?

Blog contributed by Kathleen 
Zimmerman, MDPediatrician
Do you have a constant runny or stuffy nose?  Or have you ever thought, “I can’t get rid of this cold”?  It is possible that you may actually have allergic rhinitis.  Allergic rhinitis is also called “hay fever”, although that name is misleading because there is no fever involved.

Allergic rhinitis is very common.  It affects 1 out of every 5 people in the U.S.  Allergic rhinitis happens when your immune system overreacts to a substance in the environment, such as tree or grass pollen, animal dander, or indoor particles of dust.  This causes a release of histamines in the body.  Histamines produce the typical symptoms of allergic rhinitis, such as:  stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, and itching of the eyes, nose, ears, and/or mouth.  Don’t be confused – these symptoms are very similar to what is seen with a cold.  However, colds are caused by a virus and should only last 10-14 days.  Allergies can last many weeks to months and tend to occur around certain triggers in the environment or during certain times of the year.

If you are concerned you may have allergic rhinitis, discuss it with your medical provider.  He or she may recommend a trial of an over the counter medication, such as an antihistamine, which can help block the symptoms discussed above.   Or they may recommend a blood or skin test to determine what, if anything, you may be allergic to.  Often avoidance of the allergy trigger is the most important step in reducing allergic rhinitis symptoms.

Questions? Contact your primary care provider.  If you are looking for a new primary care provider, visit:

Stay Away, I have “Pink Eye”

Blog contributed by Kathleen
Zimmerman, MD
Why do we cringe when we see someone with a red eye? Perhaps it’s because it looks painful and our eyes water just looking at it.  But another reason is we are afraid of it spreading to us!  Pink eye, or conjunctivitis (the medical term), is extremely contagious and epidemics occur easily in daycares, school and work settings and even sports teams.

Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the lining of the eye.  This lining has a lot of blood vessels – when the inflammation occurs, the blood vessels get bigger and this gives the eye a red or “pink” appearance.

What causes conjunctivitis and how can we prevent it?  Sometimes the cause is not contagious, such as allergies to pollens or pets.  Other times it is from irritation from chemicals or something in the eye like contact lenses.  But the most common causes are viruses and bacteria. These ARE contagious and easily spread through the hands rubbing the eye.  Because the eye is inflamed, it itches and also produces a lot of watery or sticky discharge.  We rub our eyes and the bacteria or virus is then on our hands.  Anything we touch (doorknobs, toys) is then touched by someone else – if this person touches their eye then they will likely get pink eye in a few days. 

The best prevention for pink eye is hand washing.  Also, do not rub your eye with your hand – use a disposable tissue.  If you have pink eye you should avoid close contact with other people until it’s  cleared up or until you’ve been on antibiotic drops for at least 24 hours (if indicated and prescribed by your medical provider).   Antibiotic drops only work if the cause is bacterial.   It is also helpful to wash pillowcases and towels in hot water, throw away contaminated eye makeup, clean eyeglasses, and do not wear contact lenses during treatment. 

Although pink eye is a mild illness most of the time, you should watch for complications.  If your eye does not improve after 24 hours of using medicated drops, you should contact your medical provider. If the eye continues to be red for more than a week, if you have recurrent episodes of pink eye, if your symptoms are worsening, or if you have eye pain, you may need to see an eye specialist immediately.  Although it is not common, permanent damage to the eye and vision loss can occur if a red eye is not treated promptly or appropriately.

Questions? Contact your primary care provider.  If you are looking for a new primary care provider, visit: