Today’s Daily Read relates to the one I posted a few days ago about hygiene, but this time it’s about food allergies – specifically, peanut allergies. Rob Stein writes for NPR’s blog The Salt that children who are fed foods containing peanuts from a young age are much less likely to develop a peanut allergy by the age of 5. This mechanism may operate by training babies’ immune systems very early to recognize peanuts and thus prevent an allergic overreaction. This is superficially similar to how vaccination works, and also how the hygiene hypothesis* works – early exposure means a stronger, more resistant immune system. The article appropriately cautions that parents who haven’t already fed their young children peanuts need to proceed carefully; but it seems that starting to give peanut-containing foods between 4-12 months may just prevent peanut allergies later. I’m loving all these new studies showing that coddling kids is not actually protecting them; instead, it seems that what we think is protecting them might be making them weaker in the long run.
*And here’s a bonus article about the hygiene hypothesis that relates to allergies as well – but this one proposes that using automatic dishwashers instead of letting kids do dishes the old-fashioned way might also be contributing to the uptick in allergies. Who knew that washing dishes could be good for you?