Peanut immunotherapy changing the lives of those with severe allergy
Peanut allergy sufferers know the struggle well; being fearful of a life-threatening, accidental reaction. But a new immunotherapy is changing lives for those who live with the constant anxiety.
Peanut immunotherapy is fairly new and it's happening now at Allergy Partners in Lewisburg. Doctor Nathan Hare says it's not curative, but it is a way to desensitize the body to something you're allergic to.
"At this point, it's not the standard of care but it's pretty exciting nonetheless. About 80 percent of people can get to eating more on a daily basis than they would with an accidental exposure and that's really the goal," he says.
Allergy Partners of Lewisburg started doing the immunotherapy in June 2017. Currently its treating 20 patients for peanut and tree nut allergies.
It is a time commitment. Hare says the protocol is 10 months to one year with 30 doses in all. Hare says the first 10 doses are done at the doctor's office. Patients go home with a take home dose and then every two weeks the dosage is bumped. The process is repeated using diluted peanut flour and eventually full peanuts. The goal is to get patients eating up to 8 peanuts a day.
There are qualifications for this type of immunotherapy. Patients must have a history of life-threatening anaphylaxis or have allergy tests completed which indicate you may have a severe reaction.
While this type of therapy is a big time commitment, patients say it's changing their lives so it's worth their time.
"I feel better about eating peanuts and being safe," says 8-year-old patient Charlie Singley. "I can eat all different types of things and be a little more safe and not worry."
His mom, Jessie, agrees. She says Charlie has been allergic to peanuts his whole life and this therapy is giving her peace of mind.
"Something as benign as a peanut could have honestly killed my kid. A lot of people can't wrap their hands around that. So for me, to know that he can go to Knoebels and go on a ride and touch parts of the ride, it's a gigantic weight off my shoulders."
Charlie is now at the phase where he's eating 5 peanuts a day with little to no reaction.
Dr. Hare says it is still advised that patients keep epinephrine nearby. Through the immunotherapy, children may get gastrointenstinal side effects including nausea and vomiting. Mouth irritation will be tolerated through the immunotherapy and if there is a severe reaction while at home, Hare says immediately call 911.
Right now this type of testing is done in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lewisburg. The Lewisburg Allergy Partners assists patients living within a two to three hour radius.