Peanut Allergy Treatment – Classroom
Peanuts. These are the nasty little nuts that hide in the piles of stuff we eat, and they can be very dangerous, even deadly.
JACK: Hi. Why did you do it ?
AMELIA: There are peanuts in it.
Jack: So what? It’s not like I’m allergic. I love peanuts.
AMELIA: Ohhhh. Maybe we start that again.
Peanuts. These are the cute little nuts that show up in the heaps of things we eat. And they are only dangerous if someone is allergic. Otherwise, they’re, like, just bonkers. It’s Declan, and unlike Jack, Declan was definitely allergic. When he was four, he learned the hard way after he had a severe reaction to peanut butter.
DECLAN, CLINICAL TRIAL PARTICIPANT: You would have to ask what was in the food to see if there were peanuts. Nor could I have things that had traces of it.
He is not the only one. Around 3 in every 100 children in Australia have a peanut allergy where sometimes even small amounts of peanuts, or touching a surface where peanuts were, can trigger them and most of the time their allergy never goes away. It all depends on their immune system; the barrier that normally protects against germs and disease. He mistakenly thinks the nuts are harmful and tries to get rid of the invaders by triggering a reaction. Sometimes this can be very serious and lead to anaphylaxis which can cause symptoms such as rash, nausea, vomiting and difficulty breathing. It can be life threatening and if it happens the person may need an injection of adrenaline or an EpiPen, which helps to reverse the symptoms.
But wait, Declan. There are peanuts in it. No. Oh, oh no, it’s true. Declan is one of 201 children who have just taken part in a trial of a new treatment in Melbourne. The researchers wanted to see if Declan and the other children could become desensitized to peanuts, which means teaching their immune systems that they’re not that bad and shouldn’t react. The main part of the treatment gave each child a small amount of peanuts, less than a hundredth of a nut, in powdered form, and for four years they were slowly given more until they were 8 whole peanuts. For someone with a peanut allergy, this is amazing. Now 18-month-old Declan can eat nuts whenever he wants.
DECLAN, CLINICAL TRIAL PARTICIPANT: I don’t like them at all.
Oh, fair enough. About half of the children in the trial stopped having an allergic reaction to peanuts altogether, while a quarter of the children became less sensitive to them.
PROFESSOR MIMI TANG, ALLERGYIST: What this means for the patient is that he can stop treatment and introduce peanuts into his diet whenever he wishes.
Researchers say the treatment could change the lives of many more children. While it’s important to remember, the trial took place under strict medical supervision over a long period of time, so definitely don’t try this one at home, okay?
JACK: Hi. What did you do this for? I told you I wasn’t allergic.
AMELIA: No, I know, I just hate chocolate chips. Raw.