For parents taking care of kids with peanut allergies, it may seem like deadly threats are around every corner. Whether in candy bars, trail mix or even egg rolls, peanut oil or peanut particles are everywhere. Children with peanut allergies are commonly forced to carefully scrutinize their food and surroundings, as often even minor exposures can lead to life-threatening situations.
Now British researchers at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge report the findings of a small, phase 2 trial that suggests the answer to peanut allergies may be, surprisingly, exposure to very small quantities of peanut. The process is call oral immunotheraphy, a treatment which involves carefully feeding allergic kids tiny amounts of powdered peanuts over time.
The researchers split 85 kids ages 7-16 with peanut allergies into two groups. Half were given peanut powder in tiny doses, which were gradually increased over 26 weeks. The other half were simply instructed to avoid peanuts as usual. The researchers report that at the end of the 26-week period, 84 percent of the group receiving the peanut powder could tolerate the daily equivalent of five peanuts without a bad reaction. Moreover, more than half of the kids were desensitized, meaning they could tolerate roughly 10 peanuts without a reaction.
While this small study published in Lancet reveals a promising finding, it's one that comes with a strict warning from doctors that this should not be tried at home without the supervision of a physician. They warn the consequences could be dangerous, if not fatal.
But as doctors learn more, parents of peanut allergic kids may be getting closer to a sigh of relief.