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My young son is allergic to peanuts. Is this likely to disappear as he grows older?

ANSWER - His sensitivity to peanuts will probably persist. A study, reported last year, tracked 32 of 46 children in whom a diagnosis of peanut allergy had been confirmed by skin testing two to 13 years earlier. Of those individuals, who ranged in age from 3 to 25, eight had avoided peanuts completely since the original diagnosis. Twenty-four others had inadvertently consumed peanuts, and all experienced symptoms.

In 19 of the cases, the interval between the diagnosis and the accidental peanut consumption was at least seven years.

This study echoed the results of an earlier investigation, in which peanut oil was not linked to a reaction. In the newer study, four subjects were given a food challenge in which neither they nor the researcher knew whether they were getting the oil or a placebo.

Virtually all peanut oil produced in the United States is processed by a single manufacturer and contains no detectable protein, which would cause the reaction.

Nonetheless, Drs. S.A. Bock and F.M. Atkins of the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine in Denver, who conducted the recent study, advise treading cautiously.

They suggest that peanut oil and oils used to fry peanut-containing foods (and presumably reused) could retain peanut allergens and might pose a threat to sensitive individuals. They therefore recommend avoiding them.

QUESTION - I'm a heartburn sufferer and frequently take antacids. However, I'm also pregnant and am taking an iron supplement prescribed by my doctor. I read somewhere that antacids interfere with iron absorption.

If I take my iron supplement at breakfast and then chew an antacid after breakfast when my heartburn acts up, does this mean the iron won't be well absorbed.

ANSWER - The answer is not open-and-shut. Usually, it's recommended that iron supplements not be taken with antacids, because they may well inhibit absorption.

On the other hand, in a recent study in which modest doses of iron were given together with antacids, absorption was not affected adversely in all cases.

Liquid antacids containing aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide had little effect on iron absorption. Others - containing sodium bicarbonate and calcium carbonate - did blunt the expected rise in iron levels in the blood after iron ingestion.

But when calcium carbonate was present in a multivitamin and mineral tablet, iron was absorbed just as effectively as when no calcium carbonate was on hand. The explanation? Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in the multivitamin may have bound with the iron, easing absorption.

This suggests that if you do take an iron supplement with a meal and then take an antacid shortly thereafter, it's a good idea to include a food or drink containing vitamin C in the same meal. That will help promote absorption of the iron.

1990, Washington Post Writers Group