Children with peanut allergies may be desensitized to the harmful effects of peanut exposure with oral immunotherapy (OIT), UK researchers have found. A study, published Jan. 30 in the online journal The Lancet, showed 81-94 percent of children treated with daily doses of peanut flour were able to tolerate the equivalent of five peanuts per day without ill effect.
The study, which was conducted between January 2010 and March 2013, recruited children ages 7- 16 through allergy clinics. Subjects ingested gradually increasing doses of peanut flour over a 26-week period.
These findings are significant. Children suffering from peanut allergies can suffer fatal reactions to even minor exposure. Accidental exposure to peanuts is not uncommon and can lead to anaphylaxis, a rapid release of chemicals in the blood that causes a drop in blood pressure and swelling that restricts airways.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, peanut allergies affect 2 percent of the population and are one of the leading causes of food allergy-related deaths in the U.S.
Study authors stress that, because of the significant risks involved with this treatment, further research should only be undertaking in specialized research centers. Parents should not attempt to desensitize their own children.