Last week’s National Nut day—not the greatest day of the year if you have a nut allergy. One of the most common nut allergies is peanut allergy. But wait, you say! A peanut isn’t a true nut! Correct! Peanuts share many of the same chemical properties as tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc.), so we tend to classify them together. In truth, a peanut is really a legume.
But when it comes to allergies, tree nuts and peanuts can pack a doozey of a punch, often leading to severe reactions including life-threatening anaphylaxis. (Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include shock, plunging blood pressure, and inability to breathe due to constricted airways.) Lesser reactions can include hives, an itchy mouth, digestive problems, and wheezing.
And while many youngsters grow out of other food allergies such as milk and egg allergies, nut/peanut allergies tend to hang around into adulthood.
It’s very unsettling to have a nut allergy or to parent a child who has one. There’s an element of fear that a stray peanut may be lurking in some seemingly innocuous bite of food. But there’s reason to be hopeful. A series of recent studies have shown that oral and sublingual immunotherapy have been successful in reducing sensitivities to peanuts.
If you haven’t heard of oral or sublingual immunotherapy, they are quite similar to the widely used treatment of allergy shots. Except for instead of the antigen being injected into the skin, it is ingested (oral immunotherapy) or dissolved under the tongue (sublingual immunotherapy). High profile studies include those done at Duke University and Cambridge University.
While treatment for life-threatening peanut allergy is still being tested, the Family Allergy Clinic offers sublingual immunotherapy for dozens of other food allergies including milk, wheat, eggs, soy, rice and fruits and vegetables. It’s simple to administer and beats living in fear of allergic reactions to foods!