Factors associated with the development of peanut allergy in childhood

N Engl J Med. 2003 Mar 13;348(11):977-85. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa013536. Epub 2003 Mar 10.


Background: The prevalence of peanut allergy appears to have increased in recent decades. Other than a family history of peanut allergy and the presence of atopy, there are no known risk factors.

Methods: We used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a geographically defined cohort study of 13,971 preschool children, to identify those with a convincing history of peanut allergy and the subgroup that reacted to a double-blind peanut challenge. We first prospectively collected data on the whole cohort and then collected detailed information retrospectively by interview from the parents of children with peanut reactions and of children from two groups of controls (a random sample from the cohort and a group of children whose mothers had a history of eczema and who had had eczema themselves in the first six months of life).

Results: Forty-nine children had a history of peanut allergy; peanut allergy was confirmed by peanut challenge in 23 of 36 children tested. There was no evidence of prenatal sensitization from the maternal diet, and peanut-specific IgE was not detectable in the cord blood. Peanut allergy was independently associated with intake of soy milk or soy formula (odds ratio, 2.6; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.3 to 5.2), rash over joints and skin creases (odds ratio, 2.6; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.4 to 5.0), and oozing, crusted rash (odds ratio, 5.2; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.7 to 10.2). Analysis of interview data showed a significant independent relation of peanut allergy with the use of skin preparations containing peanut oil (odds ratio, 6.8; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.4 to 32.9).

Conclusions: Sensitization to peanut protein may occur in children through the application of peanut oil to inflamed skin. The association with soy protein could arise from cross-sensitization through common epitopes. Confirmation of these risk factors in future studies could lead to new strategies to prevent sensitization in infants who are at risk for subsequent peanut allergy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arachis / adverse effects*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Eczema / immunology
  • Exanthema / complications*
  • Exanthema / immunology
  • Exanthema / therapy
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / immunology
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / etiology
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Ointments / adverse effects*
  • Ointments / chemistry
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity / genetics
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Pregnancy
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Soybean Proteins / adverse effects*


  • Ointments
  • Soybean Proteins
  • Immunoglobulin E