CLEVELAND — For the past two decades food allergies in children have been on the rise, according to doctors at the Cleveland Clinic.
"The peanuts have really shot up," Dr. Sandra Hong, an allergy specialist, said.
Jameson Richards is one of those children. He's 4 years old and is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and sesame.
His mother, Kayle Richards, said they discovered his food allergy when he was 18 months old after he ate peanut butter toast for breakfast.
“Everything happened very quickly," Kayle said. "Throat closing, hives, eyes were closed. He was turning blue, he was purple. It was absolutely scary.”
Doctors quickly figured out the problem and he saw an allergist days later. But Richards was confused because it wasn't Jameson's first time eating peanut butter.
“A couple weeks prior he had it so I just assumed that he didn’t have a reaction then so he probably doesn’t have an allergy," she recalled.
Food Allergy Research and Education estimates that, like Jameson, 5 million children have a food allergy in the U.S.
But thanks a LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut allergy) study, recommendations regarding food allergies are changing.
"Two teaspoons, three times a week is the important numbers to remember," Dr. Hong said.
Doctors and researchers now suggest introducing allergy-prone foods into children diets early and often.
“This is really the first time that we know that we can actually feed children early in diet and get it in so that these allergenic foods that they could develop an allergy to won’t be a problem," Dr. Hong said.
Dr. Hong said early introduction is especially important for children who may be at a higher risk for developing food allergies.
"That's someone who has eczema who needs to be treated with a steroids topical cream or someone who has a history of egg allergies. Those are the ones that are going to be at a high risk for developing a peanut allergy," she said.
For Jameson, unfortunately, it's too late. So now he and Kayle must make sure he's protected at all times, including his time at school. Kayle said she's now educating other parents about food allergies and the dangers that go along with them.
“You just want all the parents and teachers in the school to have your back, because at the end of the day it’s all a group effort in keeping them safe," Kayle said.
Dr. Hong believes the new recommendations will change the future of food allergies for children.
“I suspect the next generation will be a totally different group of kids with less food allergies than we have now," she said.