It's not the greatest of news for those living with peanut allergies and it's a sobering look at the state of adolescent allergy prevalence in Australia.
A new study conducted by The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne has determined that children who are diagnosed in early childhood with peanut allergy, are unlikely to grow out of it by adolescence. The findings also found children with peanut allergies were having more adverse events in adolescence, indicating that the years between ages 10 to 14 represented a critical danger period.
Published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the study surveyed nearly 10,000 parents and allergy-affected adolescents, followed by a series of tests that included skin prick tests and food challenges.
Among the youths studied, 5 per cent were shown to have food allergies, with 2.7 per cent of those allergic to peanut, reflecting the national statistics.
Five per cent of Australian children are now living with food allergies and the rates are rising quickly, with hospitals reporting a tripling of anaphylaxis-related admissions in the past 15 years.
Co-author of the study, Dr Katie Allen told Essential Kids, "This study has been about trying to understand the best way to transition children from primary school to high school. We found that children making this transition were less likely to declare to the new school, that they were at risk of anaphylaxis and that they had an EpiPen."
She added, "Where children were in a K-12 environment, there wasn't such a drop off in reporting of food allergies, but in cases where children were transitioning from primary school to a different high school, there was a much bigger drop off, not because they have suddenly grown out of their allergies, they're simply not declaring them."
"While we know very young children have higher rates of anaphylaxis, its the adolescents who have the higher mortality rates, so we're trying to tease out what's happening once children reach adolescence. We are analysing what factors are causing older children to have more adverse events; factors such as increased independence, knowledge, attitudes and risk-taking behaviours."
Dr Allen, thinks the frequency of allergies demonstrated in this age bracket is just the beginning. With most of the research focus historically being on the under fives, Dr Allen says that with the decreased supervision that comes with going to high school, parents need to be vigilant about regular testing. She also encourages parents to empower their child to take responsibility for communicating with their school, friends and family about their allergies.
She adds that the emphasis from an early age, should be on not sharing food. "It can be universally applied and doesn't just single out those who have food allergies. It applies to people with other food limitations including those who have religious diet restrictions, and cultivates a culture of respect around food choices."