In 1941 Allergist Warren Vaughan wrote what appears to be the very first book to explain to the public what an allergy was. It was titled, Strange Malady. That book also documents milk, egg, strawberry and wheat as the most significant allergies at that time. There was no mention of peanuts as a trigger for allergies...
Allergy to Peanuts first appears sporadically in the medical literature about 1948. From that point on, mention of peanut allergies begins to increase, but it wasn't until the 1990s that discussion of peanut allergy in the medical literature explodes.
In the 1990's, Canadian author Heather Fraser was the new mother of a one year old, when she first became aware of peanut allergies. Her family history could not explain why her own baby suddenly developed life-threatening anaphylaxis from peanuts. From then on carrying an epi-pen became more important than bringing diapers and snacks. When her son turned five and went for the first time to kindergarten, Fraser discovered that her son was part of an avalanche of deathly allergic children presenting themselves to public schools for the first time. Her family's tragedy was being experienced simultaneously by many others, and in multiple countries around the world all at the same time. This has been one of the greatest medical mysteries of our time -- why so many peanut allergies appearing all of a sudden? Why did they first appear simultaneously in many (but not all!) countries at about the same time?
Fraser wanted to know the answers to these questions and began to do her own research. The result is one of the most extraordinarily well documented, evidenced-based medical hypothesis I have ever encountered. First she reviews an extensive body of evidence going back more than a hundred years showing that allergy and immunity are two sides of the same coin. In fact, anaphylaxis was first described and understood as an unintended consequence of injections. I simply can't imagine any intelligent scientist or doctor disputing the facts that she clearly lays out showing this to be true.
Fraser then connects the introduction of injectable penicillin with the first appearance of peanut allergy in the 1940s. Who could have predicted that adding a peanut oil base (which contained trace amounts of peanut protein) in order to make the penicillin action longer lasting in the body, would act to sensitize some individuals to peanut allergy? Years later when castor oil was used in the base for vitamin K injections given to all newborns we saw another jump up in the incidence of peanut allergies. (Proteins that contaminate castor oil have been shown to cross react with peanuts and soy.)
But the biggest jump in peanut allergies -- what can only be called an, "epidemic." coincided with the introduction of the HIB vaccine. Apparently there is enough similarity between HIB virus proteins and peanut proteins that injection with the one can trigger a response to the other in some people. But that's not all -- Fraser explains additional factors that probably played a role as well. I have only barely scratched the surface of the immense amount of information, all well referenced that Fraser has eloquently assembled into her book, The Peanut Allergy Epidemic. Every parent and anyone with an interest in public health needs to read this book.
This book can be checked out from the library.
This book forces us to ask some important questions about the safety of current vaccine policy. Unfortunately, there have been very few studies that actually compare long term health outcomes between cohorts of vaccinated and unvaccinated, but there are a few that I have found:
Pilot Comparative Study on the Health of Vaccinated and Unvaccinated 6-12 Year Old US Children
The Introduction of the DTP and OPV Among Young Infants in Urban African Community: A Natural Experiment.
Roosendaal Study of Vaccinated versus Unvaccinated Children in the Netherlands.
Polio Provocation Solving a Mystery With the Help of History