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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sooke temporary homeless shelter packs up early

Occupants to leave facility by June 22

Greater Victoria transit usage sees gradual rise

Ridership still down 66 per cent compared to last year

‘The face of Belmont’: Custodial staff at Langford school pivot to support parents, students

Staff serve as point of contact for parents, students with school

Government Street becomes pedestrian-priority corridor

One block of downtown street closed to cars entirely

Name of victims ‘ripped down’ from Victoria display

Organizers feel the act is ‘malicious’

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Cortes Island affordable housing project hangs by a thread

Regional decision makers resort to COVID-19 concerns despite virtual meeting option and push hearing to September

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Damage happens every year, forcing site manager to reallocate improvement budget to repairs

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Man found dead in his tent at Island homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

Most Read