Peanut Allergies in Children

Helping children to overcome peanut allergies

A new Flinders Medical Centre (FMC) study is successfully helping children to overcome peanut allergies by exposing them to peanuts and desensitising them to their allergy. For the past four years, FMC Paediatric Allergist Dr Billy Tao has been developing a novel two-step desensitisation process. 

The first step involves boiling peanuts for an extended length of time to make them less allergenic. The boiled peanuts are given to patients to partially desensitise them, and then once the patient shows no signs of allergic reaction, roasted peanuts are given to the children to increase their tolerance in the second step of the process.

Dr Tao said the low-cost and effective two-step process resulted in less adverse events than previously used single-step desensitisation methods – also known as oral immunotherapy.  

“With traditional methods, a lot of people ingesting increasing amounts of roasted peanut flour or similar products start to react – so much so that many have to drop out and can’t finish the treatment,” Dr Tao said.  

The FMC trial is carried out over a year or longer and includes patients aged between 10 and 15 years. Of the 14 participants, 10 have already completed the first step and are now eating varying amounts of roasted peanuts, while four continue to eat boiled peanuts and are progressing well.

 “One patient who had to be administered three adrenaline injections after consuming peanuts is now eating several roasted peanuts every day without problems,” Dr Tao said.   About three per cent of Australian children have a peanut allergy, and most will carry this into adulthood with only about 20 per cent outgrowing the allergy.

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