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Immunotherapy Is Changing The Way People Look At The Peanut

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Known as the killer nut, peanuts strike the fear into the hearts of parents all around the world, whether your child has been diagnosed or not. Allergies reach far beyond those families with children who suffer with the concept that biting into a single peanut could kill them. It reaches into the lives of new mothers with overprotective natures and no way to know for sure that their child has an allergy or not until they reach an appropriate age to test it. Although most people can relax knowing that there’s no need to fear a simple PB and J in their lunch bag, fifty people die in the United States each year due to suffocation caused by the throat swelling effects of peanut allergies.

Beating The Odds

Approximately two in every one hundred children will face this personal allergy in their lifetime, and although it’s easy enough to arm them with an epinephrine auto injector in their school bags and sleepover kits, this doesn’t always guarantee that it will be used appropriately. Fortunately, for nine out of ten recipients of a new oral drug that is based on the concept of immunotherapy, children, parents, and worried teachers everywhere no longer have to fear for the safety of loved one with a peanut allergy. Andrew Clark is quoted by Andy Coghlan on newscience.com in saying: “We’ve shown fantastic results, with 80 to 90 per cent of children being able to tolerate eating peanuts regularly after treatment.”

This may not change the rules in school that ban youngsters from bringing peanut Thai curry to their class pot luck, but it can certainly help to relieve the minds of those who used to worry about this allergy constantly. It also broadens the lives of those who are affected on a daily basis because parents no longer need to turn down birthday parties and camp outs where peanuts may be included in the menu, and even if they choose to still have their child avoid eating them, they can smell and touch nuts without the lingering fear that something horrible will follow.

How It Works

Dr. Pamela Ewan is the creator of this first time successful desensitization project in which children in a controlled test group are divided and given either placebos or the bare minimal amount of peanut protein that they can possible ingest without a reaction. Although miniscule, the amount of protein plays an important role in the human body, and as it continues to be ingested the children begin showing signs that their allergies were no longer as severe. By the end of the process, those who had been in the protein group were able to eat up to five whole peanuts without a single sign of an allergy outbreak. This is no small feat for those who have dealt with it their whole lives.

What Not To Do

Due to the simple nature of this experiment it might be tempting to try it at home on yourself or your children, but working with such an extreme allergy when you’re not medically trained to do so is a bad idea. The risks far outweigh the reward, and if you’re looking to invest in this procedure, making contact with your family doctor is the first step toward finding treatment. Nicole Kwan of Fox News reports: “Ewan also warned that parents should not try to induce peanut tolerance at home, as the treatment carries the risk of provoking anaphylaxis.”

All of the tests carried out in the test group were performed in a facility with medically trained staff on standby, and medical supervision was available at all times. This is something that the average parent simply can’t supply, and since the reactions of peanuts can be fatal, this is one area that’s best left to the professionals, at least for the time being.

Nothing New

Immunotherapy, as it has been described above is a recent scientific milestone, although some researchers will suggest that the concept has been around for years. Similar to other medical discoveries, the thought that slowly incorporating desensitization into somebody with an allergy over time could lessen the reaction isn’t exactly a new concept, Dr. Ewan stumbled upon a way to make this cure work with results that have never been seen before. NHS explains: “The concept of gradually introducing allergic substances is nothing new. Immunotherapy has been used for many years, but previous attempts to treat peanut allergy with injections (the usual form of the therapy) were unsuccessful.”

This new treatment is administered orally, rather than through previously used injections, but it doesn’t change the fact that the technology has been around before now. What’s important of course is focusing more on what this treatment can do for the public, especially children, and focusing less on the fact that there have been previous forays into this particular subject without any successful results.

Whether you suffer from a peanut allergy yourself, have children with the allergy, or are a new parent feeling nervous about the idea that your brand new little one might have a future problem with this allergy not knowing for sure if your son or daughter will make it through the day without needing an epinephrine injection is enough to make a parent lose their mind with worry. Immunotherapy may be relatively new, but it’s also looking to revolutionize the allergy world, and deserves a second look by naysayers.