Promising treatment unveiled for peanut allergies

September 19, 2017 by  

A new experimental treatment program for children with mild to moderate peanut allergies is being offered at St. Joseph’s Health Care centre in London.

Patients with peanut allergies know the fear a simple peanut butter sandwich can cause, even when it is on the other side of the room. Up until now, the avoidance of all peanut-based foods has been the recommended course of action.

However, this new program, called oral immunotherapy, begins by exposing the children to about a 500th-size flake of a peanut. Over the course of about a year, the amount of nut flour eaten is increased, allowing the child’s body build a tolerance to the protein.

Mild to moderate reactions to peanut exposure can cause uncomfortable skin rashes, swelling and hives. Stomach aches and difficulty breathing and swallowing are also common.

While the treatment program is simple, it can cause a lot of fear for patients, especially during the first visit and whenever the amount of peanut flour they are asked to eat increases. To help alleviate anxiety, doctors sometimes provide patients with informational brochures detailing the steps in the program.

As their tolerance increases, patients can become less fearful about accidentally eating trace amounts of peanut oil or flour while in a restaurant or at school.

The oral immunotherapy program began with 20 children. Thus far, no one has had an allergic reaction, and one child has already graduated. While the therapy is not a cure, children can maintain their tolerance by eating one peanut M&M candy per day.