GLOBAL data since 2005 indicated an increase in children allergy to peanuts, particularly in the Western countries, which doubled from 1.4 percent to three percent. This trend is also being noticed in Asia and Africa.

It is not clear whether the trend increased because it is just being reported in these continents and started to be noticed or there have been monitoring programs that indeed found increases from the baseline. However, in the Philippines, I have not heard yet about a monitoring program on infant allergy reporting initiated and maintained by the Department of Health.

Nevertheless, knowing these data is important, or even crucial, as allergy is the number one cause of anaphylaxis (rapid onset and lethal allergic reaction) and death, primarily from food intake. And these events can occur among infants as young as four months old.

The cause is peanut.

I have not heard parents giving peanuts to infants, though. However, my ear shot is relatively short. Thus, I may have missed hearing or reading about parents giving their infants peanut butter as part of their feeding regimen.

Nonetheless, George Du Toit and other 12 colleagues from multiple allergy institutions in the United Kingdom and the United States noted in their study that, from zero allergy incidence, infants who were allowed to eat peanuts since age four months up to 60 months showed peanut allergy prevalence of 13.7 percent. These are for infants who tested positive with a skin-prick test for peanuts, using peanut extract.

Among those who tested positive in the prick test at age four to 11 months, the peanut allergy prevalence almost tripled to 35.3 percent.

Infants who were not allowed to eat peanuts until they reached 60 months of age had lower peanut allergy prevalence rates. Less than two percent (1.9 percent) of those who initially tested negative in a prick test developed peanut allergy when they started eating peanuts at 60 months of age. Meanwhile, those who already tested positive with a prick test increased in prevalence almost five times (10.6 percent).

Parents with infants must take note of these findings and not risk their child’s health for the love of peanuts. The cartoon strip could be a better and less risky option instead.