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A Surprising Treatment for a Shocking Allergy?

By Lorraine Jones

A large clinical trial has confirmed what smaller studies have shown in the past…that there may an interesting way to help treat allergic reactions to peanuts.

Peanuts are one of the leading causes of food allergy reaction, and 400,000 school-aged children in the United States have this allergy, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Symptoms may occur from any contact with the peanut protein, which is why cross-contamination of foods can be very dangerous.

These symptoms may include:

  • Skin reactions, such as hives, redness or swelling
  • Itching or tingling in or around the mouth and throat
  • Digestive problems, such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting
  • Tightening of the throat
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Anaphylaxis

But according to a recent study, swallowing tiny, increasing amounts of peanut over time  can actually help desensitize allergic individuals to peanuts.

These results are a “very positive finding” because peanut-allergic people who become able to tolerate peanuts don’t have to worry about any accidental exposure or trace amounts of contamination, said Dr. Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn, associate professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, who was not involved in the study.

Still, this is not a cure, she noted. The current thinking is that people who undergo oral immunotherapy need to continue eating peanuts every day in order to maintain tolerance.

Further research is needed to confirm the new results in more patients, and to see just how long the peanut allergy protection lasts, said Nowak-Wegrzyn.

If you suspect that you or your children have food allergies, talk to an allergist.

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