Emory University | Woodruff Health Sciences Center
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Help for Kids with Peanut Allergies

peanuts

Two in 100 children are allergic to peanuts. Some have so severe an allergy, they could become acutely ill by a kiss from someone who just ate a peanut butter sandwich or a sugar cookie made in a plant that also processes peanut products.

While deaths from peanut allergies are still rare, peanuts are thought to cause anaphylactic shock more often than any other food allergen.

A treatment is in clinical trials that may reduce children’s sensitivity to peanut allergens. The process involves gradually exposing the child to increasing amounts of peanut protein under medical supervision. (Doctors emphasize that parents should not try this at home.)

The trial was led by Brian Vickery, associate professor of pulmonology, allergy, and immunology at Emory School of Medicine and director of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Food Allergy Program.

After six months of treatment, followed by six months of maintenance therapy, two-thirds of children were able to ingest the equivalent of two peanuts without developing allergic symptoms. The children must continue to eat a small amount of peanut every day to maintain their tolerance. The idea of oral immunotherapy dates back to 1908, when a British doctor first reported desensitizing a child with an egg allergy by giving him small amounts of egg to eat over time.

“You exchange that uncertain, unpredictable risk of having an accidental reaction that spirals out of control for these sort of lower level, mostly mild or moderate symptoms that are manageable for most patients,” says Vickery, of Emory + Children’s Pediatric Institute.

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