With all the press that peanut allergies have been getting I have found that there has been a lot of misinformation or half truths surfacing that there is a cure for food allergies. This is completely FALSE! Currently there is NO cure for food allergies but there are a bunch of things in the works. Let me explain, the only treatment currently used by immunologists to treat food allergies is OIT, or oral immunno therapy. OIT works by taking the smallest dose of the allergen (peanut/treenut) and having the patient ingest it and then monitoring them. If the dose is tolerated then the patient goes home and doses twice a day for two weeks (under extreme monitoring from their parents as they can have a severe reaction at any time). After two weeks they return to the immunologist for another updose and the process continues for a year or until the highest dose is reached. That means that some patients may tolerate 3 peanuts at the end of the year or 20, it really depends on their tolerance. Let me be very frank, this is not a cure and this treatment is only to protect patients from accidental exposure and allows them to live a more normal life with less anxiety about food. The maintenance dose must be taken every day after the program is completed just like a pill you would take for cholesterol or high blood pressure. It is also important to note that patients have had small to severe reactions after they are in maintenance also. This treatment is still not approved by the FDA and the doctors who provide OIT do so to help the growing number of people affected by food allergies. There are two clinical trials going on currently in the race for a cure! One for a peanut patch and one for a peanut pill. Again this will only desensitize the patient and the process will be much like OIT. Both clinical trials are in the final phase of testing and have been fast tracked by the FDA as food allergies are becoming an epidemic in the United States. We might see treatment available for food allergy sufferers as early as January of 2018. Below I have listed some amazing articles about the future of the peanut pill and the peanut patch! Also please watch the video about Dr. Kari Nadeau, she is a food allergy pioneer and the head immunologist a Stanford! She is the head of the Sean Parker foundation and making great strides in the food allergy field!
Living with a child who has severe food allergies is always challenging. You try to prepare as best you can but I have learned that you have to be one step ahead and a master of anticipation. Recently, we took Mason to see Sesame Street Live at the Providence Performing Arts Center. My wife anticipated that there would be food there and that Mason would want a snack so she packed him a snack bag filled with safe foods and treats so that he could enjoy himself like every other kid at the performance. We left the comfort of our house, our safe zone, as we call it, and headed down town with our Epipen (never leave home without it!), Benadryl, and snack bag. On the way to the show we picked up my niece and my brother-in-law rushed out to say hello and see Mason. He reached in and kissed Mason on his forehead and off we went. Mason and Trinity chatted the whole way to the city, a very long 10 minute drive! Haha! We quickly parked and as my wife took Mason out of the car seat she noticed a huge red welted hive on his forehead. She immediately asked Mason if his head was itchy and if he was scratching it. He said no. My wife and I were going back and forth about why he could have possible had a hive on his forehead when all of a sudden our niece chimed in. She said, “Well my Dad did kiss Mason on the head Auntie.” My wife immediately called my sister and asked if her husband had eaten any nuts or nut products because Mason had a big hive on his head. I could hear my sister in the background yelling, “Oh my God, Yes!, Wayne was eating Reese peanut butter cups before he ran outside to see Mason!” We rushed Mason into the theatre and my wife quickly took him the bathroom and washed his face with soap and water to remove the allergen from the skin. We gave him a dose of Benadryl before the show just to take the itchiness away. In about 10 minutes the hive was gone! We were so lucky that he only kissed him on the forehead and not the lips! If that had been the case it probably would have resulted in us administering the Epipen and a trip to Hasbro children’s Hospital. I often wonder if we can get frequent flyer miles there. So when people call us helicopter parents and accuse of being hyper vigilant we just ignore them. We know that we are doing everything to keep our son safe and if we are helicopter parents then so be it! We always learn from every experience we have with his allergies and there was a take away from this experience also. I have listed some tips below for allergy parents and friends and family of allergy parents! Hope this helps!
1.Only washing with soap and water will remove and allergen from the skin. Hand sanitizer will not remove the allergen from the skin. So if you have eaten nuts or an allergen hand washing with soap is always best! This is the same for washing any cooking implements, pots, pans, utensils , to avoid cross contamination. Soap and water only!
2.Always ask someone, just to remind them, what they have eaten before kissing or touching a child with a food a allergy. Asking doesn’t hurt and it may avoid a trip to the ER!
3.Always travel with Benadryl and your Epipen!
For more information I have found a few very helpful sites.
I know what many of you are thinking, ugh, a boring blog about someone’s kid who is allergic to peanuts! Believe me before October 22, 2014 I never gave food a thought, except for what I was planning to eat at my next meal of course! What I have found through our journey is that there is an enormous gap about what food allergies are and what being anaphylactic really is. My mission is only to educate those whom have misconceptions or have fallen prey to the bad propaganda that exits about food allergies. If I change someone’s mind about the seriousness of food allergies or if I help a parent whose trying to navigate this world then I have accomplished my mission!
The fact is food allergies have risen over 60% since the late 90’s! That is why we are seeing such an increase in the amount of food allergic children and adults. Although many allergists and immunologists are working diligently to find a cure for those affected, the fact of the matter is they don’t even know what to attribute the spike to or even why food allergies happen to some people and not others.
Below I have listed the three biggest misconceptions I run into when educating people about food allergies.
Misconception #1: Food allergies are just like seasonal allergies…NOT TRUE
Food allergies can range from mild, just a tickle in your throat, to severe, anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe, life threatening, reaction that happens when someone ingests the food. In Masons case, any type of nut. The body then has a severe response to the food (extreme hives, throat closing, coughing, vomiting, wheezing, light-headed, nausea, feeling faint). If the body ingests too much of the allergen (food) the reaction could result in death.
Misconception #2: Benadryl can stop a severe allergic reaction….NOT TRUE
The only medicine used to treat anaphylaxis is epinephrine. Most allergist will tell patients if they are having a severe reaction to use their Epipen auto injector and to take Benadryl or Zyrtec. The Benadryl and Zyrtec are antihistamines and will only treat the itching and the hives. If someone is having a severe reaction Benadryl and Zyrtec will not suppress the immune system and stop the reaction. Always call 911!
Misconception #3: People are only allergic to the top 8 foods….NOT TRUE!
People can be severely allergic or anaphylactic to any food! The top 8 or big 8 are identified as the foods the most people are anaphylactic to. That does not mean because it is not in the top 8 that you can’t be anaphylactic to it, it just means these foods affect a big majority of the population. The top 8 are (in no particular order) : milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. Any of the top eight allergens have to be listed on ingredient labels at super markets although spices don’t have to be listed and some spices may contain some of the top allergens ….go figure!