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How do you know which creams have peanut oil in them
A. This week's scare about baby creams containing peanut oil follows the results of research from St Mary's Hospital in London, which links them with a potentially fatal allergy. It was found that 90% of children who had a peanut allergy had previously had eczema. The conclusion is that being exposed to creams containing peanut oil means that you are more likely to develop a peanut allergy when you are older.
Q. How many children have a peanut allergy
A. It could be as high as one in 100. This used to be a rare condition, and five years ago it was about one in 200 children.
Q. What form does the allergy take
A. If a child has an allergy to peanuts, the reaction after eating them is almost instant: in most cases, the skin will be blotchy or break out in bumps or hives. Sometimes, the lips and tongue will swell and the child could faint. In severe cases, the airways become inflamed and could cause suffocation. According to head researcher Dr Gideon Lack, a third of all cases need urgent treatment. If the exposure happens a second time, life-threatening shock can occur.
Q. So what will peanut oil be listed as
A. Look out for arachis oil (refined peanut oil), groundnut or peanut oil. These can be found sometimes in baby massage oils, moisturisers, nappy rash creams, ear drops and shampoos designed to treat cradle cap.
Some newspapers stated incorrectly that Oilatum products, which are used for eczema, contain arachis oil. Oilatum Cream was re-formulated in January this year to replace arachis oil with liquid paraffin.
None of the emollients prescribed by GPs contain peanut oil.
Q. Is the peanut allergy anything to do with the pregnant mother's diet
A. Previously it was thought that early exposure to peanut proteins sensitised babies and made them allergic to the nuts. But, says Dr Lack, 'The most important finding is that we found no link between the amount of peanuts eaten by breast-feeding women and the risk of their baby developing peanut allergy.' He points out that South-East Asia, where peanuts are eaten by pregnant mothers and babies, has the lowest rate of peanut allergy in the world.
Q. Do all experts agree with these new findings
A. No. Peter Lapsley, chief executive of the Skin Care Campaign, warns against panic. 'It is important to put this study into perspective,' he says. 'This is an epidemiological study looking at population trends. It does not prove a clinical link between peanut oil in skin products and allergy in later life. Parents may also be reassured to know that previous clinical studies have shown that arachis oil does not cause an allergic reaction, even when swallowed by peanut sensitive individuals.'
Find out more at www.skincarecampaign.org
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By Sheena Miller