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Study finds treating peanut allergy with oral immunotherapy safe for most preschoolers

Last Updated Apr 17, 2019 at 11:21 am PDT

Little children at the library doing crafts. (iStock Photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – There is new hope for kids dealing with peanut allergies.

Researchers at UBC and BC Children’s Hospital have found treating the allergy with a low dose of peanut that is gradually increased over several months is safe for the vast majority of children between nine months and five years old.

“We found that peanut oral immunotherapy is safe in the vast majority of preschoolers, with only 0.4 per cent of children having a severe reaction,” Dr. Lianne Soller, who is the allergy research manager at the hospital, explains. “And only 0.03 per cent of the peanut doses requiring epinephrine.”

She says the findings are a game changer when it comes to treating peanut allergies.

“In the past, there’s only been the option of carrying an EpiPen and avoiding the food. We’ve heard that doesn’t work for many children, as children do have accidental exposures often.”

While she’s happy with the results, Soller adds what was found wasn’t entirely surprising. She notes a study was conducted in 2017 in the U.S., however, it only looked at 37 patients.

The study done in B.C. was much larger and included 270 patients.

“The study made us confident that oral immunotherapy to peanuts can be offered safely in preschoolers in the clinical setting — so outside of research,” she explains. “In the past, many allergist didn’t think that it should be offered just due to safety concerns, there was no data on this age group, previously, besides this one small study.”

Soller agrees there may be more safety concerns with older children with peanut allergies.

“It’s a game changer for allergists, as well as for families, because it gives renewed hope that there’s something that they can do for their child. And if they intervene early, which is what we found in preschoolers, then you can prevent some of the long term consequences of food allergies such as bullying, depression, anxiety.”

Soller says 90 per cent of the kids in the study reached maintenance stage after increases in the dose.

Ten percent dropped out of the study.