Three years ago, researchers found that young children can safely overcome peanut allergies with a treatment called oral immunotherapy. Now, new findings show it’s even more effective when started before children reach their first birthday.
At the University of British Columbia, researchers focused on peanut allergy treatment in infants. They found out it was not only safe but actually more effective at the younger age. Until now, the immunotherapy was thought to be best used for toddlers and older preschoolers.
With oral immunotherapy, patients eat small amounts of allergy-inducing foods — in this case, peanuts. The dose is gradually increased to a pre-determined maximum amount. That way, the patient is desensitized until they can eat a full serving of peanut protein without triggering a dangerous reaction. Immunity is maintained by having the children eat peanut products for the long term.
In the current study, a group of infants were given a daily dose of peanuts at home and, every two weeks, at a doctor’s office. After the build-up period and an additional year, none of the infants had more than a mild reaction to a significant serving of peanut protein. In comparison, nearly 8% of kids ages 1 to 5 had a reaction to the peanuts.
Even prior to beginning the treatment, infants were at less risk of a strong peanut-allergy reaction. Just 34% of them had a reaction beyond mild, compared with almost 58% of kids ages 1 to 5 years old.
After a year of eating one peanut a day, 80% of the toddlers in the study had developed enough tolerance to eat about 15 whole peanuts. That’s enough to keep peanut-allergic kids safe and ease parents’ minds.