I grew up munching peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and scarfing peanut butter cookies. I love the taste and smell of fresh peanut butter. Yet there are those for whom even the smell of peanut butter can be dangerous. Peanut allergy, like many nut allergies, can be severe. For some even walking by a bakery where nuts are served can cause a serious allergic reaction. And peanut products are used in many, many foods.
The allergic reaction is severe as it involves an immediate, massive reaction by the body. Not only do hives result, but swelling inside the airway: mouth, trachea and lungs can literally suffocate an unlucky soul, if not treated quickly. Anyone who has peanut allergy should always carry with him or her a dose of Epipen, which essentially is adrenalin packaged in a syringe. This syringe upon contact with a surface such as pants will automatically inject the life saving adrenalin. Of course 911 should always be summoned after any episode requiring Epipen.
A recent study suggested that desensitization therapy with oral peanut protein might just work to reduce symptoms to a dull roar. Peanut allergy sufferers are first given a very small dose of peanut protein which for the first day is escalated every 30 minutes until a moderate dose is achieved. Every two weeks the dose is increased until about 6 gram of peanut protein is taken. From then on, patients need to take a daily dose of 6 gram or about 3 to 4 peanuts in order to keep the therapy intact. In other words, lifelong small exposures to peanuts are a must and allergic reactions can still occur, despite therapy.
This therapy is not without risks. It was performed in an allergists office, where trained medical professionals were available to handle emergencies. Curiously, there were no serious reactions, but about 70% developed minor side effects such as abdominal pain or small areas of hives.
Do not under any circumstances try this unless you are under the care of an allergist who is familiar with this new protocol. The first treatments have to occur your doctor’s office for safety reasons.
What this therapy does is allow those with peanut allergy to sit in restaurants where food containing peanut products is served. They can also fly Southwest or other airlines where gourmet food, consisting of small bags of peanuts is offered. Despite the temptation to partake of the exquisitely prepared airline peanuts, those with peanut allergy should still refrain themselves. Better to savor the tasty pretzels!