Peanuts are one of the most common allergy-causing foods around, and reactions can be quite severe -- sometimes moving very quickly from itchy skin to swelling of the tongue, wheezing, and life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Unfortunately, peanuts are often very hard to avoid. It’s easy to spot the danger in a jar of peanut butter or a handy snack-pack of these salty legumes. But what if they’re used to thicken the chili you love or accidentally mixed in with your favorite ice cream parlor delight due to shared scoops? For some individuals, the equivalent of a single peanut is more than enough to produce a severe allergic reaction.
Laura Ispas, MD, is a top-rated allergy and immunology specialist who sees a lot of peanut allergies in her thriving practice in Leesburg, Virginia. She’s excited about potential new therapies for peanut allergies and the benefits they might someday provide.
She encourages her patients to proceed with caution, however, and to remain under a trusted medical expert’s care when contemplating any new allergy therapy. Here’s what else Dr. Ispas has to say about new therapies for peanut allergies.
Avoidance and epinephrine still the best therapy
While new studies are showing great promise for treatments that might help decrease your immune response to peanut proteins, commercially available products are not yet approved by the FDA.
It’s also important to recognize that the skin patches, peanut protein powders, and immunotherapy drops being developed are not meant to “cure” your peanut allergy. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in November 2018 found that 2/3 of the children and 85% of the adults enrolled in the research were able to tolerate the equivalent of two peanuts after a year of treatment.
This has great potential for individuals seeking to avoid allergic responses to trace amounts of peanut proteins. It does not mean, however, that you can leave your epinephrine auto-injector in a drawer and fill your plate with peanuts.
Can childhood peanut exposure help prevent peanut allergies?
Maybe. Because of the severity of allergic reactions to peanuts, it was once recommended that you avoid giving children under the age of three years any peanut-containing foods, especially those who have problems with other allergy indicators such as eczema.
But the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) developed new guidelines in response to a 5-year study published in 2015, which found eliminating peanuts from a child’s diet may significantly increase the risk of developing an allergy.
These study results may partially explain why peanut allergy rates have continued to rise over the last decade despite the fact that parents and school administrators have been busy eliminating peanuts from cafeteria lunches and banning any product with “peanut” on the label from school and home.
The NIAID now recommends you introduce tiny amounts of peanut-containing foods under an allergist’s/immunologist’s medical supervision to children as young as 4-6 months who have a severe egg allergy or significant eczema.
Medical supervision by a qualified immunologist/allergist is necessary any time you decide to introduce an at-risk child to peanuts. This includes children who have known allergies, symptoms that might indicate allergies, or a family history of allergies.
Dr. Ispas is a board-certified allergist and immunologist who provides the most effective and up-to-date therapy for all allergies, including peanut allergies. She’s happy to delve into the latest research and explain the benefits and pitfalls of new therapies.
For allergy care that focuses on your overall health and well-being as well as controlling your symptoms, schedule an appointment today at Allergy Asthma & Immunology Institute. Call our office or book your visit online.