Peanut Allergies Can Be Incredibly Dangerous
These days, almost everyone seems to know someone with a life-threatening nut allergy. Peanuts, one of the most common food allergies, don’t have to be ingested to cause a condition called anaphylaxis which can result in symptoms such as sharp drops in blood pressure, skin rash, nausea, vomiting, and a narrowing of the body’s airways blocking normal breathing. Simply coming into contact with the offending substance can trigger symptoms.
Researchers with the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai may have a solution. According to an article in HealthDay News:
The Viaskin peanut patch, worn for a year by peanut-allergic children and adults, appears to “educate cells to turn off the allergic reaction,” said lead researcher Dr. Hugh Sampson, director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai in New York City.
In recent years, immunotherapy — where the allergic person is safely exposed to small but increasing amounts of peanut under a doctor’s supervision — has shown promise in easing the allergy.
As it’s done now, immunotherapy involves having people eat increasing amounts of the food they are allergic to. “That has been effective,” Sampson said, “but there has been a high rate of adverse reaction, such as itchy mouth, swollen mouth and stomach.” He said the new skin patch may be a way to avoid these reactions.
According to Sampson, the new Viaskin patch works by exposing users to a controlled amount of peanut allergen in hopes of increasing their tolerance.
The study led by Sampson involved 221 subjects, with ages ranging from 6 years of age to 55 years of age. All subjects suffered from a peanut allergy. Subjects were given varying doses of the patch. Some were given a placebo. Results were encouraging:
Half of the participants wore the Viaskin patch for a year, and by the end of that time they were able to tolerate at least 1 gram of peanut protein — about four peanuts.
That’s about 10 times the dose they could tolerate at the start of the study, Sampson noted. “This is a new way to do immunotherapy,” he said.
As people wear the patch for several years, their tolerance to peanuts should improve, Sampson said. “It is likely that we will see a better response as it goes longer,” he said.
The patch was most effective in children, suggesting that larger doses would be required for adults. However, it appeared to be safe, with 95 percent of study participations using the patch as directed (and less than 1 percent dropping out of the study due to adverse effects). While experts note that the findings are preliminary, and the patch is several years away from being approved for use, there is excitement about what the data may mean for peanut allergy sufferers:
Dr. Vivian Hernandez-Trujillo is director of allergy and immunology at Miami Children’s Hospital. She said that “this is a very exciting time for patients with peanut allergy. I am speaking not only as an allergist, but as a mom of a child with peanut allergy.”
The patch appears to be a “groundbreaking treatment option,” she added, since there appeared to be no adverse reactions to the patch.
The fear of having a severe allergic reaction is “the scariest thing anyone with an allergy to peanut lives with,” Hernandez-Trujillo said. “As a parent of a child with peanut allergy, the biggest concern is that you are living with the possibility of having to deal with a reaction on an everyday basis. The hope is that if children can tolerate the patch, they will not have a severe life-threatening reaction.”
Until the patch is available for use, consult your physician to discuss your options for managing your peanut allergy. For questions about Epinephrine or other medications used to combat Anaphylaxis, please visit any Owens Healthcare location and speak with one of our pharmacists.