Peanut therapy helping kids with severe allergies

Evan LeMoine and Rohan Deshpande are just like any other fourth graders. 

"Mostly I just play on my iPad and watch a few DVDs in the car or something, I read books," Rohan said. 

Until...they eat a peanut.

"My lips just feel like a little bit itchy and my stomach hurts," Rohan explained. "There was this one time where I ate breakfast at school and then I lips started swelling and everything."

But these days, maybe having a peanut allergy isn't so abnormal after all. 

"We’re seeing more kids with allergic antibodies with high amounts of allergic antibodies, and therefore we see more eczema. We see more asthma. We see more allergic granitis. We see more food allergy, including peanut allergy," Dr. Aerik Williams explained. 

And a lot of parents want to know why. 

"We’re not quite sure, but there is a theory and we call this the hygiene hypothesis...particularly in our country where people tend to be more clean and we walk around with Lysol wipes whenever, you know. We’re exposed to less bacterial antigen, less fungal antigen, less viral antigen," Dr. Williams said. 

All of this basically means kids, particularly in developed countries like the United States, are now more likely to have allergies. And some of them can be very dangerous. 

"That will manifest with hives, with swelling. We have those types of cells that will release histamine in the lungs so you could get some shortness of breath and wheezing," Dr. Williams said. 

"Reactions are scary. We’ve had anaphalactic reactions before and it’s not something you want to worry about when you send your child to school or camp," Kathleen Durgin, Evan’s mom said. 

But one new procedure might allow these parents and their kids to breathe a little easier.  

"There’s a protocol that’s referred to as peanut oral immunotherapy that actually started in the academic setting. Patients are exposed to increasing amounts of peanut protein. And you start with a really small amount of peanut protein. We start with two micrograms over the course of their first day and over a six hour period we build them up to where they are at two milligrams of peanut protein and just kind of as a reference. One peanut contains about 250 milligrams of peanut protein," Dr. Williams said. 

The process can take anywhere from 21 weeks to one year. However, experts say it isn't foolproof. 

"It’s certainly not a cure. And I tell patients this from the moment they step into the room," Dr. Williams said. 

While many patients weigh the benefits of being desensitized to the chance of accidental ingestion, they think it's worth it. 

Both Evan and Rohan have been doing the treatments and while they're not exactly fans of peanuts yet they're still pretty happy with the results. 

"It’s been great because I want to experience what it’s like with my friends," Kevin said. 

Doctor Williams said about 85 percent of patients will become desensitized to peanuts. But even they have to continue to have daily exposure to peanuts or else they risk the allergy coming back. 

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