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One of the scariest realizations for a parent is that your child is allergic to something that they may have to face regularly through life, especially if that allergy is potentially dangerous. Fortunately, recent studies have shown that there may be a way to prevent and even immunize your children to these allergens. Of the top most feared allergies among parents for their children, peanuts are usually number one on the list. This small, seemingly harmless nut can cause a myriad of negative reactions from rashes on the skin to swollen lips and tongue, and in very severe cases, even anaphylaxis. Kidshealth.org explains: “Every time the person eats (or, in some cases, handles or breathes in) a peanut or tree nut, the body thinks the proteins are harmful invaders.”
The reaction to these invaders involves your immune system responding by rushing in to fight the proteins off. Unfortunately, it’s this protective nature that causes your body to have an allergic reaction, during which natural chemicals like histamine are released throughout the blood stream.
Studying The Human Ability to Build Tolerance
A recent research team in the United Kingdom has published a study which uses oral immunotherapy to prevent the more severe reactions in children with peanut allergies. This study followed results on 99 children between the ages of 7 and 16 years of age who had allergies to peanuts. The children were split into two groups, one which used oral immunotherapy over a period of 26 weeks with 800mg of peanut protein per dose, while the other group avoided peanuts completely. This treatment lasted for 6 months, after which time both groups were instructed to eat peanut protein under medical supervision. Medical News Today reports: “After 6 months of the therapy, 84-91% of the children could safely consume 800 mg of peanut protein, which is around five peanuts. This is 25 times the amount they could tolerate before the therapy.”
Following 6 months of this therapy, children were able to consume 1400 mg of peanut protein, which is actually equivalent to ten peanuts. One fifth of the patients who underwent this treatment had adverse reports, and one patient who pulled out of the study early had to be treated with adrenaline to battle serious symptoms, which is why the child didn’t continue In the study.
What These Findings Mean
Although eating ten peanuts might not seem like a big deal to somebody who doesn’t have a child constantly dealing with a severe allergy to nuts, to a child this small handful of nuts can make a world of difference. The amount of trace peanut oil that is present in many of the foods which are deemed unsafe for those with nut allergies will no longer affect a child who has a tolerance for 1400mg of peanut protein. This means that a child who uses oral immunotherapy has the chance to go to school, sleepovers, and attend afterschool clubs without worry that he or she might come into contact with something that could cause them to have an adverse reaction. For parents this creates peace of mind that allows them to have things like peanut butter in the house without constantly worrying that a smear of something will get close to your allergic child, or that the smell alone might set them off. There are different levels of allergies for those who are allergic to nuts, and it’s important to understand how much of something your child can have before you test him or her with it. Never try oral immunotherapy on your own without the supervision of medical personnel, or without consulting with your family physician first.
Expanding On Testing
While the findings for children’s tolerance for peanuts is encouraging, it’s important to note that children grow into adults, and there are many adults in the world who share this allergy. Fortunately, the treatment of oral immunotherapy should work equally well for adults, although while some people might assume that an adult would have an easier time to handle the transition between dosages, there are some cases where children have an easier time coping with certain allergies than adults do. One example of this can be seen in lactose intolerance, which has shown to become an increasingly problematic allergy in adults. Nicole Kwan of Fox News says: “While this trial was done on children, researchers said they expect the treatment could work in adults as well. However, more research is needed to determine the long term impacts of OIT, which has not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”
As further studies are completed on the possibilities of oral immunotherapy treatments, the United States Food and Drug Administration may set standards and policies regarding how the treatments should be used. At the moment, the only time that these are being approved is through scientific study and under intense medical supervision.
All allergies play a different role in those who have a problem with them, which means that while this treatment may work on more than 90% of those who tried it during this study, it doesn’t mean that future studies will have the exact same outcome. Not only do the symptoms vary, but the level of severity may vary as well. Children with highly severe levels of peanut allergies often travel with an epinephrine injector, or an epi-pen, which is used to release anaphylaxis treatment into the system.