There was a time when peanuts were almost everywhere: in sandwiches, baseball games and on the snack table, especially for Super Bowl Sunday. But lately, this daily favorite has become for many a daily fear.

Megan Shaoul is the mother of twins Henry and Piper. Both have a life-threatening allergy to peanuts. "They both lost consciousness during their reactions," she said. "Literally, the whole body becomes a hive, like a fluorescent red, from head to toe."

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Allergic reactions to peanuts are among the most serious.

CBS News

They made about six trips to the hospital.

The Shaoul family is far from alone … and it's not just peanuts. You may have grown up without ever hearing of a food allergy, but it is currently estimated that 26 million people, including six million children, have at least one – and the same number of children. peanut allergy would be among the most serious.

This led to the banning of peanuts in schools, stadiums, even in the heavens, where Southwest Airlines stopped serving them in its planes last year.

Megan Shaoul told his correspondent Tony Dokoupil: "I'm petrified by peanuts, which for me, it's as if someone had an open pot of poison in front of my children." as dangerous as that. "

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Megan Shaoul.



CBS News

                      
              

<p>But can all this danger become a thing of the past? The researchers now think that they can slow down or even eliminate the problem.</p>
<p>First step: a rare reversal of medical advice. In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics (American Academy of Pediatrics) had enjoined parents to avoid giving peanuts to their children before the age of three … tips that became a gospel for many.</p>
<p>"It was a recommendation based on this intuitive feeling that if you refuse, you will therefore protect children," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.</p>
<p>"Intuition is not science, as you will surely tell people," said correspondent Tony Dokoupil.</p>
<p>"Exactly, you bet!"</p>
<p><img alt=But Dr. Fauci now thinks that telling families to eliminate peanuts has made the situation worse.

Dokoupil asked, "Is this a mistake?"

"I did not make the recommendation, it's safe!" Dr. Fauci laughed. "You know, I would not say it was a mistake, I think what it was, it was a judgment call that, in retrospect, was the wrong call."

So, what is the right call? How about the totally opposite approach? Experts now urge parents to feed their children with peanuts early and often. According to Dr. Fauci, exposure could result in an 81% drop in new cases. "I think it's possible and likely that you're seeing a dramatic decrease in peanut allergy," he said.

This is certainly good news for Bob Parker, chairman of the National Peanut Board. "Whenever you see an article about food allergies in general, there will be a photo of peanuts on it," Parker said. "There is no doubt, peanuts are food allergies posters."

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Correspondent Tony Dokoupil with Bob Parker, chairman of the National Groundnut Council.

CBS News

He added that the explosion of peanut allergies had resulted in lost sales and losses of several tens of millions of dollars. "That 's the risk you run when you have bans and you have 30 million kids who can not eat their peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home. school in a day, "Parker said. "For 12 years, they will not eat peanut butter sandwiches and will not give peanut butter to their children one day, which is a big concern."

His concern goes well beyond the bottom line; it strikes at home. Indeed, Parker's grandson is suffering from a severe peanut allergy. "It was very moving," he told Dokoupil. "It was moving for me, it was moving for my daughter, who was educated because of peanuts."

"Peanuts paid for the school?" Said Dokoupil.

"The peanuts paid for school, they paid for her to grow up, and to have a son who was allergic to peanuts, I think she almost felt like I had let go. I had not missed her, she could not do anything. "

This is partly because no one – not even the experts – is certain of the origin of food allergies.

Scott Sicherer, director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, says many theories explain why there has been an increase in food allergies: "This stems from what we call hygiene or assumption of cleanliness to vitamin D, how the biology of our body may have changed, or even the supply of food. "

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According to Dr. Scott Sicherer, a cafeteria looks like a "minefield" for people with food allergies.

CBS News

This is true: one of the main theories is that we are too clean.

Dokoupil said: "The hygiene hypothesis – everyone seems to like it. We are not dirty enough?"

"The main assumption of change, because there is a genetic aspect to the food allergy, but it is necessarily the environment that must explain such a rapid increase, something had to change for us," said Dr. Sicherer.

Although there is no treatment for food allergies, there are encouraging experimental treatments, involving careful and supervised exposure, such as small doses of peanuts in a pill or lozenge, like the one Megan Shaoul's son receives, Henry.

"It bypasses the mouth and slowly teaches the body to accept peanuts and stop attacking them," said Dr. Sicherer. "It's a bit like a nicotine patch for peanut."

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A patch of peanut skin.



CBS News

                      
              

<p>"And in the end, will they be at a baseball game eating a whole bag?" asked Dokoupil. </p>
<p>"That would be great!" </p>
<p>Shaul said, "I mean, we are going to try everything we can, and I do not need my kids to eat peanut butter sandwiches, I do not need to. for them to have a peanut butter cookie, I just want accidental exposure tolerated. "</p>
<p>Hope for families and doctors – and for Henry, something sweet: "At least I can eat Snickers or Kit Kat and everything will be fine," he said. "Or Twix, that's all I want to eat!"</p>
<p><strong>      <br />See also: </strong></p>
<p><strong>      <br />For more information:  </strong></p>
<p><em>Story produced by Gabriel Falcon.</em></p>
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