Snickers. Crunch. Twix. Butterfingers. To most people, the names of these candies probably bring some positive emotions, and likely even a craving for one of them. But unfortunately, to three million Americans (1.1 percent of the population), those words carry the weight of fear and disappointment. Those three million suffer from an allergy to peanuts (or tree nuts—walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, and pistachios).
Depending on the type of reaction one gets—ranging from a slight rash to anaphylaxis, a swelling of the throat that restricts breathing—many people are unable to eat food with nuts or even with a label claiming it “may contain peanuts or tree nuts” or that it was “made in a facility that also processes nuts.” These warning labels are often there to prevent any legal liability, despite the fact that many of those companies don’t really need the label.
Thanks to some new developments over the past few years, however, this may be well on its way to changing. For most of these people, a constant reading of ingredients and asking waiters for extra care in the washing of utensils could be over. This is thanks to a new “Peanut Challenge” Oral Immunotherapy Study. In this study, the patient is a fed a microscopic amount of the allergen (peanut flour), mixed in with another food in order to begin building a tolerance to it and prevent the allergic reaction.
On the first day, the study begins with .01mg. The subjects are monitored frequently for multiple hours, upping the dose slightly every half hour. Before he is given the next dose, the patient has his vitals checked. After successfully completing the first six doses, the patient returns the following day to ingest the next dose of 6mg—double what they were able to build up to the day before. The patient brings home capsules containing 6mg to eat in their food every day for the next two weeks. At the end of that two week period, the patient returns to the doctor for more observation and another increase. Finally, after this is repeated for a period of six months, the patient will hopefully be able to reach the stage of eating five Reece’s Pieces daily, and after a full year, the ultimate goal is to eat an entire peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The study has already seen remarkable results. According to Fox News, “After 26 weeks, 84 percent of the children in the active treatment group were able to tolerate the equivalent of five peanuts a day and 62 percent were able to tolerate the equivalent of 10 peanuts a day.” This development is incredible for those who suffer from a food allergy, particularly ones who are deathly allergic.