Peanut-allergic teens at risk

The results of two interesting studies were reported at the spring 2006 meeting of the Amercian Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology - both involving teenagers.

The Kissing Game

Peanut-allergic people, particularly teenagers, need to know the risks of kissing someone who has recently eaten peanuts, even if they have brushed their teeth.

Jennifer M Maloney, MD, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York and colleagues looked to find out how much peanut allergen was in saliva
following a meal. Their study also measured the level of peanut allergen in saliva after people attempted to remove it via brushing their teeth.

Ten people ate two tablespoons of peanut butter in a sandwich and saliva was collected at different times afterward. On a separate occasion samples were collected following a meal and again immediately after cleaning the teeth.

Allergen levels became undetect-able in all subjects within four-plus hours without any intervention; by one hour after the meal, the level in saliva from six of the seven subjects became undetectable. However, teeth cleaning or rinsing after eating the meal didn't drop the allergen levels down to below detection level.

The study concluded that practical advice may include brushing teeth, plus waiting a number of hours before kissing, but added that a
larger group must be studied before issuing recommendations.

General risk-taking

A sizeable number of food-allergic teens admit to risk-taking that varies by social circumstances and perceived risks.

Scott H Sicherer, MD, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, and colleagues looked to identify why adolescents and young adults are at high risk for fatal food anaphylaxis. Participants (49% male) were 13-21 years of age, with three-quarters suffering from peanut allergy or two or more allergies, 82% having anaphylaxis and 52% more than three lifetime reactions.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) said they always carry epinephrine, but that percentage varied during activities (from 94% when travelling to 43% when playing sports). Three-quarters said they always read food labels, but 42% said they would eat a food labelled ‘may contain’ an allergen. Teens don't always tell their friends about their food allergies (60% do) and 68% feel educating their friends would make living with food allergy easier.

The results suggest that educating teens, and people around them in social activities, may reduce risk-taking and its consequences.

More information from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

First Published in September 2006


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