In Israel, a snack called Bamba is credited for a dramatically lower rate of peanut allergy among children.
The morsels of puffed corn resemble Cheetos, except taste like peanut butter. Americans can now buy them in Trader Joe's.
The idea is that Israeli children are introduced to peanut-based foods at much earlier ages, and that may help kids develop protection from development of peanut allergy. Researchers confirmed that hypothesis in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015.
Now, drug companies are seeking to replicate that approach through medicine. Aimmune and DBV Technologies both aim to file for approval of therapies this year that seek to retrain the immune system so it doesn't overreact to peanuts. Both are examples of the new approaches to preventing potentially life-threatening reactions.
"It's a huge problem," said Robert W. Baird analyst Brian Skorney, in an interview with CNBC. "Sending kids to school, they're not allowed to bring any peanut-based food because there's almost always at least one kid in class with peanut allergy."
Public health data support what many parents observe: the prevalence of food allergies, the most common cause of severe reactions known as anaphylaxis, increased by 70 percent in U.S. kids younger than 18 between 1997 and 2016.
Hospital claims for severe allergy reactions have increased, too, by 377 percent from 2007 to 2016, according to a study from FAIR Health.
Researchers cite a handful of potential contributors for the rise in allergies: parents' reluctance to introduce foods like peanuts too early; the "hygiene hypothesis," the idea that we're so clean that our immune systems have too little to do and thus overreact to innocuous stimuli; and that our microbiomes, or gut bacteria, may be out of whack.
"We don't quite have the answer yet," said Dr. Julie Wang, professor of pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "Those are areas of active investigation."
Of all the allergy offenders, peanuts are the worst — at least in terms of the number of people they send to the hospital.
Will Brody, a 13-year-old eighth grader in New York City, knows that firsthand. He had his first reaction when he was a year old, and developed allergies to tree nuts as well. He's had to use an EpiPen four times to counteract severe reactions.