By Heather Legg
With food allergies, it makes it more difficult because there is no real cure. With insect or pollen allergies, shots or medicine is available to help control the allergy effects. Food allergy sufferers must rely on avoidance. However, as of late, there has been a great deal of research on desensitization, especially with peanut allergies, and the findings are looking good.
The purpose of desensitization is not necessarily for the patient to be able to enjoy a peanut butter sandwich or a Snickers bar, but to prevent the severe symptoms in case of accidental ingestion. Sure, it would be great if everyone could eat peanuts (or whatever their food allergy may be), but if desensitization can take away the worry of ingesting and accidental trace or that your food has been contaminated by an allergy, wouldn’t that be something?
Some recent studies and research have been conducted and here are the findings from one small one fheaded by Dr. Tamara Perry, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine in Little Rock, Ark:
Perry and colleagues at Duke University placed 15 peanut-allergic children on a slow, but escalating oral dosage program, during which they consumed limited amounts of peanut food. Another eight peanut-allergic children were placed on a placebo regimen.
Among the children exposed to these carefully rising doses of peanut, negative reactions were mild to moderate, requiring medicinal intervention only a handful of times, the authors noted.
At the program’s conclusion, a “food challenge” was conducted. The challenge revealed that while the placebo group could only safely tolerate 315 milligrams of peanut consumption, the 15 children who participated in the immunotherapy program could tolerate up to 5,000 milligrams of peanuts — an amount equal to about 15 peanuts.
Having concluded that the dosage program afforded some measure of short-term “clinical desensitization” to peanuts, the research team then explored the program’s potential for inducing long-term protection in a second trial.
Eight of the children who had participated in the oral dosing program for anywhere between 32 and 61 months were then subject to an oral peanut challenge four weeks after being taken off the dosing program.
All of the children — at an average age of about four and a half years of age — demonstrated lasting immunological changes that translated into a newly developed “clinical tolerance” to peanuts, the researchers said. And although the children continue to be tracked for complications, peanuts are now a part of their standard diets.
These results look promising, but caution must be take when thinking about this. It’s certainly not something you’d want to do with your child at home. These studies take place in controlled environments with emergency help on hand. It is interesting, exciting and hopeful, and maybe in the near future, this will be a viable option for all with peanut allergies.