Peanut allergy doubles for Aussies

About one in every 200 Australian children born in 1995 developed a peanut allergy by age six, according to an ACT-based study which has national application. The incidence jumped to about one in every 140 children when the study was conducted on six-year-olds born in 2001; for babies born in 2004 it was about one in every 90 children, and this cohort would not be six for another year, meaning more cases were likely to emerge. Dr Mullins, a clinical immunology and allergy physician in Canberra, also reviewed the cases of almost 800 adults and children who developed the allergy and said there was ‘no doubt’ the results were indicative of a trend Australia-wide.

Despite the rising incidence, Dr Mullins found there was little change in the allergy's make-up over the decade. Teenage or adult onset remained rare, with 90% of allergy cases developed by age six. Children with the allergy could have more severe reactions if they also had asthma, or their first reaction came closer to age six than to their birth. Little was known about the cause of the allergy, let alone the reason for its rising incidence, and only 20% of those with the allergy later grew out of it.

Dr Mullins' research will be published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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First published in April 2009

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