How Exposure Therapy May Help Allergies
We have all heard about the children who are so deathly allergic to peanuts that they can not even be in the same room as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And we certainly all know someone with a peanut allergy. Peanut allergies may affect more than 1% of children in developed countries. But what causes allergies and are they treatable? Allergies are an immune response that occurs when white blood cells attack the allergen and give rise to an immune response, which causes inflammation.
A recent study suggests that there may be hope for curing peanut allergies. The Phase 2 trial used what is known as exposure therapy or oral immunotherapy. This method works by building up a tolerance to the allergen. In the study 100 children and teens orally ingested very small amounts of peanut flour, which were increased gradually over the course of six months. Each time the dose was increased it was administered in a clinical setting. A number of participants had mild reactions including wheezing, vomiting, nausea, itchy mouths and throat constriction. In particular, 22% of the participants experienced wheezing. Only one participant had a reaction strong enough that an adrenaline injection was necessary and no participants were admitted to the hospital.
But overall the results of the study showed promise for increasing tolerance. The first time the study was performed 84 percent of those undergoing exposure therapy were able to eat 800 mg of peanut protein, the equivalent of 5 peanuts. And more than half were able to eat the equivalent of 10 peanuts.
Unfortunately, in order to continue their tolerance participants would need to keep eating the peanut powder for several years. In the past those who have stopped exposure therapy lost their tolerance after 9 months. Though, for some families continued treatment may be worth it. Families reported a significant increase in their quality of life as they no longer had to worry so much about every potential risk of peanut exposure.