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BMJ. 1996 August 31; 313(7056): 518–521.
PMCID: PMC2351952

Peanut allergy in relation to heredity, maternal diet, and other atopic diseases: results of a questionnaire survey, skin prick testing, and food challenges.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: To determine rates of other atopic manifestations in people with peanut allergy and the prevalence of such allergy in their families. DESIGN: A survey of people with self reported peanut allergy and people referred by their general practitioner for suspected peanut allergy; survey and skin testing of 50 children with reported peanut allergy and their available first degree relatives. SUBJECTS: 622 adults and children with reported, suspected, or known peanut allergy. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Prevalence of peanut allergy and other allergies in the families of people with peanut allergy. RESULTS: 622 valid completed questionnaires were returned out of the 833 questionnaires dispatched (74.7%). All forms of atopy were both more common in successive generations (P < 0.0001) and more common in maternal than paternal relatives (P < 0.0001). Peanut allergy was reported by 0.1% (3/2409) of grandparents, 0.6% (7/1213) of aunts and uncles, 1.6% (19/1218) of parents, and 6.9% (42/610) of siblings. Consumption of peanuts while pregnant or breast feeding was more common among mothers of probands aged < or = 5 years than mothers of probands aged > 5 years (P < 0.001). Age of onset correlated inversely with year of birth (r = -0.6, P < 0.001). Skin prick testing of 50 children with reported peanut allergy and their families: 7 probands (14%) had a negative result for peanut. Peanut allergy was refuted by food challenge in all those tested (5/7). No parent and 13% (5/39) of siblings had a positive result on skin prick testing for peanut. Two of these siblings had negative challenge with peanuts. The prevalence of peanut allergy in siblings is therefore 3/39 (7%). CONCLUSIONS: Peanut allergy is more common in siblings of people with peanut allergy than in the parents or the general population. Its apparently increasing prevalence may reflect a general increase of atopy, which is inherited more commonly from the mother. Peanut allergy is presenting earlier in life, possibly reflecting increased consumption of peanut by pregnant and nursing mothers.

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