If you are allergic to peanuts, you may be wondering if your children will develop peanut allergies. Unfortunately, researchers have found that genes do play a role in peanut allergies. However, they've also found that it's not the only factor. Additionally, new peanut allergy treatments have been effective in preventing the onset of life-threatening peanut allergies in young children. Here's what you need to know.
Genetics & Epigenetic Changes
After studying the DNA samples of 1,315 children and their biological parents, researchers found a link to peanut allergies in a gene region on chromosome six, which is believed to play a role in the risk of the development of food allergies. However, they also found that not everyone who has this gene mutation develops food allergies. Therefore, they believe epigenetic changes could also have a role in whether or not someone develops food allergies.
Epigenetic changes occur when a methyl group (common in organic compounds like peanuts) attaches to the DNA. It's the level of the methylation that regulates whether or not those with the genetic mutations develop food allergies. The higher the level of methylation, the more prone your children will be to developing peanut allergies. So what does this mean? Essentially, this explains the old cliché, "You are what you eat." Your children could become hypersensitive to peanuts, which would cause their immune systems to go overboard if the methylation level increases suddenly and substantially, such as when eating a PB&J for the first time.
Controlling Epigenetic Changes & Allergy Treatment
Receiving treatment for allergies before the allergies fully develop into life-threatening anaphylactic reactions can prevent your children's immune systems from going overboard when exposed to peanuts. The treatment is oral immunotherapy, in which children with peanut allergies are given very small amounts of peanut under the direction of an allergy specialist. This type of exposure therapy is believed to control the amount of methylation that occurs, which gives the body time to adjust and slowly accept the peanut allergen, as opposed to unregulated amounts that could overwhelm the immune system and cause a harmful amount of histamine to develop in the body, which could lead to anaphylactic shock.
However, it's important to understand that the idea here is not to allow children to eat peanuts whenever they want when they are older. It's to reduce the risks of life-threatening allergic reactions to peanuts. If you are concerned that your children may develop a peanut allergy because you have a peanut allergy yourself, schedule appointments for your children with an allergy specialist. To learn more about allergy treatments, contact a doctor at a medical center like Mid America Ear, Nose, & Throat Clinic PC.