Amazing New Therapy Helps Kids Overcome Deadly Food Allergies
With nearly 30 thousand shares, one mother’s Facebook post about peanut allergies is going viral. Sarah Wynia Smith began her post with “Today my peanut-allergic son ate 24 peanuts. You read that right. He scarfed down two handfuls of his allergen. And he liked it!”
How does a kid who is allergic to peanuts safely consume them? His mother gives all the credit to a new program called Oral Immunotherapy (OIT). Before OIT, her son’s allergy was so severe that trace amounts of peanut on a stranger’s hand would cause a reaction. Now, this up-and-coming treatment has allowed her son to build a tolerance to an allergen that once threatened his life.
For her son, it has taken eight months of traveling 90 miles to the doctor on a nearly weekly basis. His first appointment, last November, took six hours to complete. His OIT started with 5 micrograms of peanut protein that had been diluted into a glass of juice. For homework, they were given a bottle of the same solution and instructed to give it to their son each day. A week later they drove back to the doctor and were given an increased dose of peanut protein while under the supervision of their allergist. This process continued until July, a total of "over 25 appointments and hundreds of home ‘doses’” culminating in their victory of 24 whole peanuts without an allergic reaction.
While increasing the amount of peanuts he was exposed to, he gradually built up a tolerance to each dose and then graduated to a higher dose. His mother writes: “At this level of consumption, he is officially declared ‘desensitized’ or ‘tolerant’ of the food.” He still has the potential for an allergic reaction, but maintaining his current dose of peanut intake daily will keep his tolerance high.
Over four thousand miles logged and a daily dose of peanuts for the rest of his life sound like a high price to pay, but as Smith describes, it was well worth the work. Watching her young son go into anaphylactic shock, administering Epi-Pens and “years of managing a life-threatening food allergy” brought a great deal of anxiety to the family. “I felt trapped and terrified almost constantly. He too was starting to get anxious about food that wasn’t safe. Any food with a trace of peanut in it could have literally killed him.” Before OIT, they could not eat at restaurants due to the risk of cross-contamination. They had to say no to baseball games, birthday parties, wedding cakes, potlucks and anything of the like. “It was all just too anxiety-provoking for the benefits to outweigh the negatives to attending such things.”
But now he can consume a meal that has been cross-contaminated. “I wouldn’t worry about anything that even had actual peanut in it because his daily maintenance regimen will protect him from exposure," Smith said. "Our family does all of those things we used to avoid without worry. I’ll send him to kindergarten this fall without worry that an innocent-looking cupcake sent in by a well-meaning classmate would send him to the ER.”