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Peanut Trials Aim to Stop Allergies

With an estimated 1 in 50 children are allergic to peanuts — some of whom are so allergic they could die if they eat just one — findings in a clinical trial at Cleveland Clinic are giving doctors hope that one day, peanut allergies will no longer be a fear.


In the trial of nearly 500 children, researchers have been introducing tiny amounts of peanut proteins in graduated amounts, until trial participants are able to tolerate eating a peanut with no allergic reaction. Researchers told Fox 17 that, so far, the trial has been successful for about two-thirds of the participants.

What Cleveland Clinic is doing with these children is called “sensitizing,” which is a strategy that basically introduces tiny amounts of an allergen a little at a time until the patient can tolerate the allergen without having an allergic reaction.

Sensitization trials and strategies have been ongoing for many years in various forms. For example, a technique known as provocation neutralization (PN), which is taught by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), can be very effective.

PN offers many allergy sufferers permanent relief without adverse side effects. The success rate for this approach is about 80 to 90 percent, and you can receive the treatment at home.

The provocation refers to "provoking a change" and neutralization refers to "neutralizing the reaction caused by provocation." During provocation neutralization, a small amount of allergen is injected under your skin to produce a small bump called a "wheal" on the top layers of your skin, and then it is monitored for a reaction.

If you have a positive reaction, such as fatigue, headache, or a growth in the size of the wheal, then the allergen is neutralized with diluted injections or with drops of the same allergen that go in your mouth.

With peanuts, research actually suggests that exposing children to peanuts early on can help reduce their risk of developing an allergy, while strict avoidance actually heightens the risk.

Moreover, giving trace amounts of peanuts to children with a peanut allergy is part of new guidelines issued by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which recommend introducing pureed food or finger food that contains peanut powder or peanut extract at or before the age of 6 months.

As excitement for these sensitization techniques builds, however, it’s also important to know the difference between an actual allergy and an intolerance to a food or substance.

For example, allergic symptoms tend to flare up at certain times of day or during certain activities. An allergy to dust mites might result in waking up with congestion, for instance, while symptoms that appear primarily during your morning walk could be due to pollen.

If it's the middle of winter and you start coughing and sneezing, and you know some of your friends have recently been sick, it's probably virus-related. Another simple indicator is to check the mucus that's coming out of your (or your child's nose). Clear, water mucus may be due to allergies while thick, green mucus may be indicative of a cold.

In allergic asthma, the same triggers that set off your allergies may also set off your asthma. This is also true of food allergies, although it is relatively uncommon.

You'll know it's occurring if you experience your typical food allergy symptoms, such as hives, rash, nausea/vomiting or diarrhea followed by coughing and wheezing. Anaphylaxis, in which your throat swells and you may not be able to breathe, can also occur.

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