Peanut Allergies: What’s the Best Treatment?

peanuts-shellsThe recent Skippy peanut butter recall serves as a reminder that peanuts are still a problem in the U.S., in more ways than just salmonella.

Food allergies among children are actually increasing in the United States, the most common being the peanut allergy.  Peanut allergies are the most dangerous, since often breathing or eating just a small amount of peanuts could cause fatal reactions such as anaphylactic shock and death.

While most children grow out of certain food allergies by the time they are in their teens, some have worsening allergies or later develop certain allergies.  In a recent New Yorker article, most doctors have commonly believed that children are less likely to develop food allergies if they are not exposed to certain foods as babies.  Those with food allergies have to avoid certain foods for life, reading labels carefully and asking about ingredients, since no other particular treatments are available.

Newer studies have revealed that exposing certain foods to allergic kids may actually help them develop better  immunity.  The New England Food Allergy Treatment Center in West Hartford, CT has developed a new treatment called “oral immunotherapy,” where patients  are asked to consume a small amount of peanut flour slowly, gradually increasing their immunity and decreasing allergic reactions, until they can eat whole peanuts. 

According to Jeffrey M. Factor, the Medical Director of the center, similar studies and treatments have been made available by Duke Medical Center, the University of Arksansas, and Mount Sinai in New York.  A 15-year-old from Grafton, NY received the immunotherapy treatment at Mount Sinai.  Originally allergic to peanuts,  the teen was soon able to eat other types of nuts (walnuts, pistachios, and pecans), though he is still working on peanuts.

While there isn’t enough information about this study affects younger children, early exposure to foods that cause allergies is now being considered an alternative to complete avoidance. 

If your child has food allergies, especially allergies to peanuts, would you seek the oral immunotherapty treatment? Or would you continue making sure your kids avoid worrisome foods?

More about food allergies on Parents.com

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