Peanut Allergy Topics
Advances in curing food allergies are being made everyday, and there's hope that food allergies may soon be a thing of the past. Currently, it’s estimated that approximately 20 percent of peanut-allergic children will outgrow their allergy.
Diagnosing a true food allergy is a complex process, which is why it’s important to seek the help of a clinician who can provide guidance on diagnosing an allergy – and not to draw any conclusions yourself or from at-home tests. For information about finding an allergist in your area, visit the American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology website at www.acaai.org.
Many people confuse food intolerance with an allergy. The main difference? A food intolerance response typically involves symptoms limited to the digestive system, while an allergic reaction to food involves the immune system. Because the symptoms between the two can be similar, it’s important to be tested and receive a proper diagnosis. In fact, according to the Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States, multiple studies demonstrate that 50-90 percent of presumed food allergies are not allergies.
Millions of people successfully live with food allergies every day. The keys to success are having a comprehensive allergy management plan and being diligent before consuming any food you are uncertain about. FAACT has a variety of resources for the newly diagnosed.
Since there’s no single test that can confirm or rule out an allergy, your doctor will take several steps in order to properly identify a food allergy. The doctor will most likely conduct blood and/or skin tests to identify the food(s) that may be causing a reaction. These results, paired with those from an oral food challenge test and all other information (such as a food diary, family history, previous reactions, etc.), help determine whether a food allergy exists.*
Proper diagnosis of food allergies
It may not be possible to prevent all food allergies from happening, so it’s important to consider how they could be reversed.
Researchers around the world are looking for ways to reverse food allergies by developing tolerance through immunotherapy (introducing tiny amounts of food proteins, by mouth of skin, in increasing doses over time). They’re also studying the impact of medications and supplements. These treatments are still experimental, but the hope is that they will someday be available to all allergic individuals.
Skin patch may help treat peanut allergies
Researchers with the Consortium of Food Allergy Research published a study on the safety and efficacy of an epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT), or the peanut patch. In the double-blinded and randomized study, 74 participants with peanut allergy were given one of three treatments – placebo, or 100 mcg peanut protein or 250 mcg peanut protein (both in a patch).
At the end of the study, they found that 46 to 48 percent of participants had an increased tolerance of peanuts, as compared to 12 percent in the placebo group. The study showed that the patch was not entirely successful at establishing tolerance to peanuts, but there was improvement in the amount of peanut that was tolerated by participants. Plus, allergic reactions to the peanut protein were minimal.*
Moving forward, more research is needed to determine whether or not the patch will be useful for peanut allergy treatment.
Controlled peanut exposure could help peanut tolerance
Oral immunotherapy (OIT) is one of the most promising research fields in providing aid to those with peanut allergy. Oral immunotherapy seeks to desensitize the patient to their allergen by providing small, daily doses of the allergen. In theory, the body will eventually recognize the daily dose of allergen as no longer foreign.
In August 2016, a study was conducted to test the safety and effectiveness of OIT. Dr. Brian P. Vickery, assistant professor of pediatrics at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, led the study, which included 40 infants and toddlers (9 to 36 months old) with peanut allergy. They received low doses (300mg) or high doses (3,000 mg) of peanut protein each day for at least one year. By the end of the treatment, 81 percent of children were desensitized to peanut protein, including 85 percent of the low-dose group and 76 percent of the high-dose group. Although more OIT studies are still necessary and underway, this study suggests OIT may be more easily and durably corrected in young children with peanut allergies.**
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is another form of immunotherapy. This process, while less well-studied than OIT, involves placing a daily peanut extract under the patient’s tongue; the dosage is increased gradually over time. Get more information on SLIT.
Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have developed a Chinese herbal medicine (FAHF-2) that may prevent life-threatening reactions to food allergies. The results of the phase 1 clinical trial, published in July 2010, suggest the formula is safe and well-tolerated by people with food allergies. Phase 2 of the study is currently underway. Get more information on alternative treatments.
*Jones S, et al. Epicutaneous Immunotherapy for the treatment of peanut allergy in children and young adults. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016. Dos: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2016.08.017.
**Vickery, B, et al. Early oral immunotherapy in peanut-allergic preschool children is safe and highly effective. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016. Dos: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2016.05.027.
Reactions to food allergies are unpredictable but are usually mild and self-limiting. They may involve one or more organ systems, including the skin, gastrointestinal tract or the circulatory or respiratory systems. In IgE-mediated food allergies, reactions may occur within minutes or in up to two hours.
Anaphylaxis is a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction. If you are allergic to a substance, your immune system overreacts to this allergen by releasing chemicals that cause allergy symptoms. Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical treatment, including a prompt injection of epinephrine and a trip to a hospital emergency room. If it isn’t treated properly, anaphylaxis can be fatal.*
Frequently Asked Questions
According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team, for those who are severely allergic, ingesting even a trace amount of peanuts can cause a reaction, but skin contact and smelling peanuts are unlikely to cause systemic reactions or anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis may occur due to ingestion, but research supports that people with peanut allergies are highly unlikely to have serious reactions as the result of casual contact with peanut proteins. If symptoms do occur, it generally includes sneezing, runny nose and/or coughing.*
Life threatening reactions are rare, but can happen when an individual ingests the food to which they are allergic. If you suspect you or an individual is having an allergic reaction, you must act quickly. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, it is essential to administer epinephrine and call 911 for immediate medical attention.
Epinephrine is the recommended treatment for anaphylaxis. Epinephrine options include:
- Epinephrine injection auto-injector (Adrenaclick® generic)
- Syringe and vial of epinephrine as a method of emergency treatment.
Speak to your doctor about the best method for maintaining and administering epinephrine for your health or the health of your child.
 The National Peanut Board does not promote or support any specific injector/brand.
Science and society have come a long way in the past two decades when it comes to food allergies. While no list is complete, the organizations below include the most trusted, credible and knowledgeable organizations working to address peanut and all food allergies today.