Study finds peanut allergy treatment safe for allergists to use with young kids

The children were aged nine months to five years and were treated from April 2017 to November 2018

A new study suggests preschoolers who are allergic to peanuts can be treated safely by eating small amounts of peanut protein with guidance from a medical specialist.

The findings offer assurances to allergists in clinics and hospitals that oral immunotherapy does not have to be confined to research settings.

Senior author and pediatric allergist Dr. Edmond Chan says many allergists shy away from the technique for fear it might trigger a serious allergic reaction. But he and other scientists and pediatric allergists at the University of British Columbia and BC Children’s Hospital say the risk is actually quite small.

Their study found just 0.4 per cent of 270 children who received oral immunotherapy had a severe reaction. Meanwhile, 11 children, or four per cent, received epinephrine. Researchers say nearly 68 per cent of the children experienced at least one allergic reaction, but 36.3 per cent were mild and 31.1 per cent were moderate.

The children were aged nine months to five years and were treated from April 2017 to November 2018.

The Canada-wide findings were published in the “Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.”

READ MORE: Finding safe preschool snacks can be a tough nut to crack

Oral immunotherapy is a relatively new approach in which a patient is directed to eat small amounts of an allergenic food to build up tolerance. The dose is gradually increased to a determined maximum, known as a maintenance level, that is continued for at least one year, even two.

At that point, a child might be ready for a food challenge to determine whether they have become desensitized to their allergen, for example by eating one serving of peanut.

It’s found success in clinical trials but Canadian allergists remain split in opinion, says Chan.

“There are some allergists who feel that it should only be done within research and then there are other allergists who feel that in carefully selected patients it could be offered outside of research,” says Chan, who adds the treatment should only be offered by an allergy specialist, not a family physician alone.

“I was observing several of my patients flying to the United States and going to far-away clinics to get this treatment and I felt it was very confusing…. They were told by one allergist that, ‘Oh yeah, it’s totally available and it’s time to do it,’ and then other allergists (said) that it wasn’t. And some (families) were left to their own devices.”

Chan is among those who offer oral immunotherapy, believing that peanut allergies are very treatable, especially among young children.

He considers the study “a game-changer” in encouraging other allergists to consider OIT, and hopes it will move the conversation to establishing national guidelines that can ensure safe practice.

“Because the ship has sailed already and there are a certain number of allergists offering it outside of research already, maybe we should try to make sure it’s safe for patients getting it in those offices by having more uniform criteria and guidelines for how to offer it.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Island wolf population ‘reasonably secure,’ says researcher

Forestry practices, not predation by wolves, blamed for reduced numbers in prey animals

PHOTOS: Vancouver Island MusicFest showcases talent from across Canada and around the world

Eclectic line-up ranged from West African to Korean performers, along with rock and blues legends

SLIDESHOW: Hundreds gather for the combination of classic cars and cool aircraft

Campbell River’s annual Wings & Wheels event held at city airport

VIDEO: B.C. MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first steps in nearly 30 years

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

Dog recovering after being drenched in hot coffee, B.C. man charged

Man was taken into custody, charged, and released pending a court date

Taekwondo instructor, 21, identified as B.C. bat rabies victim

Nick Major, 21, an instructor at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville

Science expedition to Canada’s largest underwater volcano departs Vancouver Island

Crews prepared for a two-week research mission to the Explorer Seamount

B.C. shipyard to get one-third of $1.5 billion frigate-repair contract

The federal government has promised to invest $7.5 billion to maintain the 12 frigates

Anglican Church to review governance structure after same-sex marriage change fails

Some say the current system to change doctrine gives too much voting power to a smaller class of bishops

B.C. adding fast-charge stations for electric highway trips

Okanagan, Vancouver Island, Kootenay stations ready for use

15-year-old with imitation gun caused ‘dynamic’ scene at Nanaimo mall

No one was harmed in Monday’s incident, say Nanaimo RCMP

Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

Bat expert with the BC Community Bat Program urges caution around the small creatures

Most Read