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Thursday, May 17, 2007

'Overstated' Is An Overstatement

I've read one to many articles this week touting that "Peanut Allergies Are Overstated". I posted about this already this week but I think another post is in order. In my Wheal Deal post I blogged about the fact that the Australian research does not appear to be novel in its findings, though it does reaffirm findings of prior studies which is useful.

Upon seeing this article over and over in the press, I have developed more of a concern with the press coverage than the actually study. My concern with the press coverage is on three levels.

1) The articles should be more explicit in explaining to parents that 70% of these kids ARE allergic to peanuts and that an oral challenge is a very serious matter. It needs to be done in a hospital. The risk is that skeptical parents do their own oral challenge at home.

2) Since 80% of kids outgrow a peanut allergy, it is possible that in the interval between the skin prick test and the peanut challenge the allergy may have resolved itself. I will follow up to ascertain the average duration for this interval.

3) This might be a stretch, but if a child has never eaten peanut would a skin prick test serve as the introduction of the antigen? ... or would it take oral consumption? If it is the latter then would it not be possible for the oral challenge to introduce the peanut allergy and actually sensitive the child to peanut? Again, I suspect this is a stretch but I am just trying to think it through logically.

I also took exception to Dr. Wainstein's comment that safe daily peanut consumption rendered allergy testing irrelevant. The statement may be true but the term 'irrelevant' just serves to make the article a touch more sensational. It contributes nothing of substance.

I have been very disappointed in the way this story has been communicated to the public. It is just the type of story that the Peanut Doubters want to see and it risks giving false hope to parents of allergic kids.

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