One in 10 American preschool-child suffering from allergies is knowingly intoxicated by parents or care-givers who intentionally put their toddlers in contact with the trigger of their ailment, according to a new study.
The report, published Monday in medical journal Pediatrics, offers no clues as to why the behavior is so widespread despite consequences that can be fatal.
"Maybe parents were testing their children to see if they had outgrown their allergy," said lead author of the study David Fleischer, assistant professor at National Jewish Health in Denver, quoted on ABC News.
The study is the fruit of three years of work during which researchers tracked 500 US kids, ages three to 15 months, with diagnosed allergies to eggs, peanuts, or milk.
The study also found that the frequency of allergic reactions was shockingly high among subjects, reported Time.
Even when the allergy was known, 70 percent of children experienced an allergic reaction over the course of the testing period, while half of them were victims of two such episodes.
Exposure to allergic food stuffs was accidental in those cases, found the authors.
Yet, the study brings into question the judgment of the kids' parents and caretakers for too often failing to administer epinephrine when this was needed - either for failure to recognize severe reactions, unavailability of the shot, or simple fear to proceed with the shot.
Parents or caregivers used EpiPen in only 30 percent of such cases, the study found, according to WebMd.
The government-sponsored study is the first such far-reaching effort to track the circumstances and frequencies of severe allergic reactions in preschool children across the US.
Food allergy is common in the US, with close to 6 million children have food allergies in the US, or some four percent of all children.
Read more on GlobalPost: Food allergies more prevalent in city kids