In Australia, some moms have held ‘peanut butter parties’ outside hospitals to test whether their kids are allergic to peanuts. Worried parents who are about to feed their children peanut butter for the first time have gathered in parks near the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide. There, they feed their children peanuts, watching for an allergic reaction, according Emergency medical help is nearby, in case a child suffers an allergic reaction.

With rising rates of food allergies among children, many parents are concerned even if they have no family history of allergic reactions. The mother of a two-year-old son, Christine Dening said that the leader of a mothers’ group she attended suggested giving her son peanuts near the hospital “just in case.” She explained “That way we could dash to the emergency room if he reacted.” The mothers’ group leader “also recommended doing it with a group so that we could support each other and help to reduce anxiety,” said Dening.

Dietician Julia Boase, who specializes in pediatric allergies, said she was aware of the peanut butter parties being held near the hospital. “I’ve even heard of mums driving to the emergency department car park and giving their kids their first peanut butter sandwich there,” she said. She recognized that rising rates of peanut allergies have heightened parental anxiety, but said “parents need to remember that the majority of kids don’t have an allergy.” Instead of waiting for a peanut butter party, Ms. Boase suggested following the advice of the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, which does not suggest delaying the introduction of potential food allergens.

Sandra Vale, Vice President of Anaphylaxis Australia, said that her food allergy support organization had heard of parents across the country visiting hospitals so that their children could try potential allergens near emergency services. She said that many of these parents are cautious because they have an older child who has a food allergy. On why parents may opt for this method of allergy testing, she says “The waiting list in hospitals for testing is long so this is a safety precaution for these parents. I think there is an increased need for education, as well as better access to services.”

Dr. Mike Gold, an allergist at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, said parents should discuss allergy concerns with their child’s doctor. “In some infants or children further investigations such as a simple blood test can be performed by a general practitioner to exclude a possible nut allergy,” he said.

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