YOUR HEALTH: Peanut patch: Fighting childhood allergies
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - More than 5.5 million kids have a food allergy – that’s about one in 13 kids, or one or two kids in every single classroom. Even though more than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergies, eggs, milk, and peanuts are the most common. Recently, the FDA approved an oral treatment for older children with peanut allergies, but there was no treatment for children under the age of four, until now.
If you can strum it, pound it, build it, throw it, or swing on it, that’s where you’ll find five-year-old Kaleb Billeter – not a care in the world – but it wasn’t always like this.
“When Kaleb was six months old, he broke out into hives all over his chest, torso, face,” said Kaleb’s mother, Elizabeth or Liz.
A skin test proved Kaleb was allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs.
Pediatric allergist at Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Dr. Brian Vickery says, until now, there was very little they could do to help children like Kaleb.
“What we’ve been studying is to expose patients to small bits of what they’re allergic to, to change their immune responses. And what’s exciting is that, you can actually do this through the skin,” said Dr. Vickery.
It’s called epicutaneous immunotherapy, or EPIT.
“Peanut proteins are coated on the underside of a small patch that’s about the size of a nickel or a quarter. Then, immune cells in the skin are actually able to pick up the allergenic protein and deliver it to the immune system to give it instructions on how to respond to peanut allergen,” explained Dr. Vickery.
Children wear the patch for half an hour a day and then increase it until eventually, it’s worn 24/7.
“This is not a cure, this does not reverse the allergy and make it go away completely, it just lessens the sensitivity levels,” said Dr. Vickery.
Kaleb doesn’t need the patch anymore, but he does eat half a teaspoon of peanut butter a day, and now he can do this without having an allergic reaction.
According to Harvard Medical School, peanuts are not nuts, they are actually legumes because they are seeds that grow into pods. But peanuts are not the only food allergy being studied by using a patch. Milk and egg patches are also in clinical trials, and doctors believe this is just the beginning and patches could be used for multiple allergens in the coming years.
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