The Peanut Allergy Epidemic

Explore how a small group of children affected by peanut allergies has exploded into a global epidemic.

  • In the early 1990s, tens of thousands of children with severe peanut and food allergies arrived for kindergarten at schools in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States.
    Photo by Fotolia/africa studio
  • In “The Peanut Allergy Epidemic,” Heather Fraser highlights alternative medicines, explores issues of vaccine safety and other food allergies, making this fully-updated second edition a must-read for every parent, teacher and health professional.
    Cover courtesy Skyhorse Publishing

In The Peanut Allergy Epidemic: What’s Causing It and How to Stop It (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015), Heather Fraser explains the phenomenon of a life-threatening allergy in children, in specific countries, occurred simultaneously, without warning and quickly intensified. The number of allergic children in the United States alone went from virtually none to about two million in just twenty years. As these children have aged, the combined number of American adults and children allergic to peanuts has grown to a total of four million.

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The Problem of Peanut Allergy

By 2012, as many as 2.3% of Canadian children under 18 and 2% to 3% of children in the US, the UK and AU were allergic to peanut. And as children born during the first wave of the epidemic in the early 1990s have aged, the statistic of adults with peanut allergy is increasing. In 2008, an estimated 1% of the US population was allergic to this one food, about 3 million people. Four years later by 2012, the number jumped to an estimated 4 million living with a life threatening allergy to peanuts.

Peanut allergy began as a phenomenon largely affecting children living in western countries, the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. The alarm sounded for Americans when between 1997 and 2002 the number of peanut allergic children doubled and then tripled reaching an astonishing one million in 2008. In 2010 one study put that number at 2%, an additional 500,000 children in just two years. As this book unfolds it will become evident that there is a pattern in the way in which the peanut allergy in western and now non-western countries has emerged — epidemic levels of peanut allergy in children are now also documented in mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Israel and parts of Africa.

While the exact numbers are a matter of debate, it is clear through statistics, scientific inquiry, and simple anecdotal evidence (the parental refrain “no one had a peanut allergy when I was at school”) that the prevalence of the allergy among children has increased at an alarming rate. This development has altered the fabric of societies now forced to accommodate life-threatening allergies to common foods.

The Constant Tension of the Unknown

Families with children allergic to peanuts (or any of the other top 8 allergenic foods — tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, dairy, egg) live in a state of constant tension. If these families eat at restaurants, they do so with extreme caution. Not knowing the severity of the allergy, parents are vigilant about smears of peanut butter left on tables or on grocery cart handles. Trace amounts on the skin or lip or even the scent of the food could trigger a reaction. Parents, the child, caregivers, and teachers are fearful. Children are segregated in school cafeterias at designated tables or left out of play because friends have peanut butter in the house. Every school now tackles the peanut question, whether to ban peanut butter sandwiches and how to educate staff and students about the deadly nature of this ubiquitous childhood food.

12/5/2016 6:31:57 PM

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12/5/2016 6:21:56 PM

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