For the longest time, people who’ve known they have certain food allergies have avoided those foods in order to protect themselves.
But researchers have been looking into ways of helping people manage them better and several recent studies have found that feeding babies small portions of peanuts makes it less likely for them to develop peanut allergies later in life. Experts are very much interested in finding ways of one day eliminating allergies altogether.
While a definitive cure has yet to be found, treatments are becoming more and more effective. For instance, Dr. Jeffrey M. Factor, head allergist at the New England Food Allergy Treatment Center (West Hartford), has been using oral immunotherapy for the past five (5) years to treat patients that have known peanut allergies.
Dr. Factor gave a statement saying that he and his colleagues “have treated more than 600 patients with peanut allergies […] and have had over a 90 percent (90%) success rate”.
There are over 100 foods that may trigger allergic reactions in people, but the main eight (8) are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soybeans. These foods can trigger abnormal response in the human body’s immune system.
Depending on how mild or acute the allergies are, the Big Eight can cause everything from annoying yet harmless rash, to uncomfortable itching, to a running nose, to severe allergic reactions such as life-threatening anaphylaxis, which can cause a person to suffocate in just a few minutes by making the inside of their throat swell up.
Professionals typically treat anaphylaxis by administering an injection of epinephrine intramuscularly. Epinephrine is a chemical know for quickly reversing the effects of allergic reactions, whether their caused by ingesting something that the patient shouldn’t have ingested, by insect bites and stings, or by certain meds such as penicillin.
Although it may sound counterintuitive, the way that experts treat allergic reactions (oral immunotherapy) is by first giving the patients a small bite of the food that they’re allergic to. The working theory is that their bodies will become immune, or desensitize, to these food over time and they will stop having allergic reactions to them.
This treatment was developed by a team of doctors from Duke University’s Medical Center and from the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. They first made their results public back in 2009, after conducting a small study which showed positive results. A second, large study was conducted in 2014 and it reinforced the results of the first one.
Dr. Factor explained that he starts off patients by giving them a small dose of the food that they’re allergic to, and when they stop having allergic reactions to that, he increases the dose. For peanut allergies, the goal is to get patients to eat 10 peanuts each day without having an allergic reaction.