Parenting a child with a food allergy — especially to peanuts — is no easy feat. Besides making sure their home is free of any potential allergens, a parent to a child with allergies also has to be on guard at school, birthday parties, play dates, and, according to one study, in the presence of pretty much any surface that hasn't been cleaned of peanut protein in the last 110 days — which is a scary fact for those with severe enough allergies to have a reaction through touch or inhalation of the allergen.
The study, which was published back in February 2013, took a look at the persistence of peanut allergens on a table surface to see how much, if any, of the allergen would linger on an uncleaned surface over time. The short answers: yes, it lingers, and no, the allergen doesn't degrade as time passes.
For the experiment, researchers evenly smeared five milliliters of peanut butter over a 12-square-inch square on a table previously free of any allergens and in five separate locations. Each location was tested in different areas over the course of 110 days, without cleaning the surface, and allergens were present each time. Not only that, but at no point during the experiment did the amount of the allergens seem to degrade in any way — meaning that if a person with a severe peanut allergy were to come in contact with the surface, they could have a reaction even 110 days after the peanut butter came in contact with the surface.
Recently, a story about a mother who allowed her toddler to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a Target shopping cart was called out for doing so. As harsh as the criticism may have seemed, those informing her of the dangers she posed for other children who may be allergic to peanuts, according to this study's results, were extremely valid.
"The main point is to not assume that if a surface is wiped that the allergen is gone — it in fact will persist unless a cleaning product is used."
"Peanut allergen is very robust," reads the study. "Active cleaning of peanut-contaminated surfaces easily removed peanut residue and allergen. Regular cleaning of surfaces before and after eating should be reinforced as a safety measure for all individuals with peanut allergy."
Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist at Allergy & Asthma Network, confirmed the study's findings to POPSUGAR: "The main point is to not assume that if a surface is wiped that the allergen is gone — it in fact will persist unless a cleaning product is used." She added, touching on the most dangerous, frightening aspect of this information, "Some peanut allergies are so severe that not only touch, but inhalation of [peanut] protein can trigger a reaction . . . An allergy could be life-threatening, and that's often not taken seriously."
Whether your child has an allergy or not, consider what you're allowing them to eat in public, where they're eating, and how you clean up after them. Carry around travel-size cleaning wipes for quick and efficient clean-ups, and do your best to avoid packing snacks containing common food allergens like nuts, milk, and eggs.