Q: How can I know if my newborn baby has a peanut allergy before he is dangerously exposed?
A: The development of peanut allergy is a combination of the role of genetic and environmental factors
that are not very well understood. It is really not possible to determine whether a newborn baby will develop a severe peanut allergy.
There are skin tests and blood tests (called immunoCAP) that can be used to test for food allergies but in a newborn these tests may not be
that helpful. This is mainly because the newborn very likely has not been exposed to peanut before. For an allergy to develop prior exposure to the ‘allergen’ in some way is necessary. Also, these tests are often not ‘sensitive enough’ to detect allergy in very young infants. Babies who develop eczema, particularly if moderate or severe, show evidence of other food allergies such as egg, or have a strong family history, are at greater risk for developing peanut allergy. Studies are underway to determine if feeding peanut earlier on in life may actually decrease the risk of developing peanut allergy.
Jeffrey M Factor MD
Dr. Jeffrey Factor is Medical Director of the New England Food Allergy Treatment Center, one of the only private practice based peanut desensitization clinics in the nation that treats peanut allergy in children and adults. Dr. Factor is a Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (FAAAAI) and American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). He also serves as a national spokesperson for the FAAAAI.