It's no secret that peanut and other food allergies aren't going away any time soon. It's said that one out of every 13 children is affected with some sort of food allergy, and rates have been on the rise for a number of years. In fact, from 1997 to 2011, the percentage of kids with food allergies went from 3.4 percent to 5.1 percent.
And how exactly does one treat a food allergy? It all boils down to complete, strict avoidance, and if the allergen is ingested, it can lead to anything from an annoying rash to anaphylaxis, shock, and even possible death. EpiPens can save a life, but no parent wants their child to get to the point where they need to use it, and as its effects wear off after 20 or so minutes, emergency medical help needs to be summoned right away.
However, this may soon be a thing of the past. According to a new study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, a French biotech company called DBV Technologies may have come up with a possible solution—a peanut-allergy patch.
So how does the patch work? Each Viaskin Peanut patch is sprayed with a small sample of peanut protein, which is then affixed to the skin. That's where the magic happens. Instead of going through the patient's bloodstream, which can induce an allergic reaction, the protein enters the immune system via the skin. Over time (and we're talking around a year), the patient becomes desensitized to the protein itself, which means ideally, they'd be able to actually eat some peanuts without suffering a severe allergic reaction.
In this particular study, it only worked for about half of the people tested, but they reported that it seemed to be more effective for kids ages 4 to 11. After the age of 12, it didn't seem to do much. Their next step is completing Phase 3 of the trial, which will set them up for FDA approval in the future.
Food allergies are so scary, and if there's a chance in the future that I'll be able to worry a little less about my loved ones, then I'm all for it.
Now, the question is, would I ever use this for one of my three kids with food allergies? Yes, yes I would. However, there's probably little to no chance I'd let my kids eat what they wanted based on this treatment. There will never be a day when I'll give them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, no matter what results they experience. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups will still be a no-no, and Nutella will stay on supermarket shelves.
But how priceless would it be to tamp down at least a little bit of worry? Right now, we have to be super careful about everything they eat. All ingredient labels are closely examined, and if there is any sort of an allergy warning on the label, even if it says "may contain" or "processed in the same facility as," we don't buy it.
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There's always a little bit of stress, though, that one of them will accidentally eat something they shouldn't. And I'll always have stories in the back of my mind of kids who go away to college and wind up dead because they came into contact with an allergen, like this 19-year-old unfortunately did.
For now, it's promising that there are positive results for some patients who have undergone testing. Food allergies are so scary, and if there's a chance in the future that I'll be able to worry a little less about my loved ones, then I'm all for it.