Hope May Be Coming for Peanut Allergy Sufferers

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Those who suffer from peanut allergies (and the parents of children with peanut allergies) are in constant fear of even a trace of the nut bringing about an anaphylactic reaction. A new study from Cambridge University in the United Kingdome and presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science may have found hope.

In a trial of 23 children that lasted two years, researchers from Cambridge University used “desensitization therapy” or “immunotherapy” in which tiny doses of peanut flour were given each day, gradually increasing the dose until they can now eat five or more nuts a day. The study lasted for six weeks with most children tolerating it well, except for some temporary mouth itching or abdominal pain.

Twenty-one of the 23 children (91%) were able to safely eat at least five peanuts every day without any reaction. After six months, 19 of the children were able to increase intake to 12 peanuts at a time.

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Earlier attempts at this unusual approach of exposing allergic children used injections of peanut extract or oil and caused serious reactions. It is thought that the approach worked this time because small doses of flour were put into yogurt which was eaten.

The news is very exciting to those with severe food allergies. An estimated 30,000 Americans are treated in emergency rooms each year because of allergic reactions and new research shows that the number of children with food allergies has risen 18% in just 10 years.

For those 3.3 million Americans allergic to nuts, extreme care must be taken to read food labels and to research restaurant menus to avoid peanut ingredients. Even an event like going to a ballgame where peanut shells and fibers can travel through the air can be a dangerous situation. Unlike other food allergies, such as those to milk and eggs, children do not often outgrow peanut allergies.

There are still many unknowns about immunotherapy and it is not clear how permanent the state of the desensitization will last. A larger trial of 104 children will begin next month and last about three years.

This type of desensitization therapy should never be attempted except in a controlled setting under the strict supervision of professionals, as peanut allergies are extremely serious and can be fatal.

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