A Possible Tool in the Fight Against Nut Allergies
We’ve all seen the rise in food allergies. We’re all affected one way or another by it. Maybe you know someone, or your child does, or maybe it is actually you or your child. Long gone are the days of a PB&J being a staple in school cafeterias. What if, though, it didn’t have to be? What if it can be cured? What if you didn’t have to worry about a child becoming ill or even dying from the smallest trace of nuts? This would affect my life in a huge way because my 9 year old daughter is deathly allergic to all nuts. Not only is she extremely allergic, but I have been told by her allergist that she is in the top 1% of this country as far as seriousness of her allergy.
One morning, when my daughter was about 9 months old, her brother had a peanut butter sandwich and then gave my daughter a kiss on the cheek as he was taking his empty plate to the kitchen. The whole left side of her face and neck broke out in a horrible rash. Thankfully, I realized what had happened and knew she must be allergic to peanuts. After blood tests by her doctor we found out she was allergic to tree nuts as well. Fast forward a few years to us getting a call from her daycare provider that she had just had to use an epi-pen on our 5 year old. That was one of the scariest moments of my life. She said another child had eaten a sandwich and she must have somehow gotten it on her hand and rubbed her eye so it got into her system. Her tongue had swelled up, her eyes rolled back into her head, and she was lethargic so she epi-penned her and probably saved her life. Her daycare provider became a nut-free facility after that. When we saw her, one of her eyes was very swollen and so was the whole side of her face. She had a rash all over her neck and torso. You can imagine when she started kindergarten later that year why I was scared to death and cried my eyes out.
Our story is not an unusual one. However, parents with children with severe allergies must tailor their lives around this. Our family doesn’t expect everyone around us to change their whole lives also, but we read everything she eats, speak to all of the parents of the children she plays with; even occasionally have to exclude her from a birthday party or 2. Nuts, peanut butter, etc. are not allowed to be consumed or open at our house or in our cars. We must be constantly vigilant. I have become my daughter’s royal taster because a lot of times people don’t realize that almond extract in a sugar cookie is just as deadly.
There is hope though and it’s on its way in the next few years. There are a couple of bio-pharmaceutical companies that have developed a treatment that can desensitize people to peanuts. Some companies are trying an oral medication while others are trying out a patch that is worn on the arm. Most of the people that use these therapies will probably never be able to eat a handful of nuts or eat a PB&J sandwich, but what if they accidentally eat a cookie with nuts in it (or almond extract) and they don’t have to worry about dying from it? That’s huge!!! I have seen my daughter cry hysterically when she is afraid that something she ate was tainted with nuts. I have heard her little voice asking me if she’s going to die. Awful is not even close to the feelings I have when watching her go through times like that. These therapies can’t come out soon enough. Check out the article here: https://blog.foodallergy.org/2015/06/15/results-of-new-peanut-allergy-trials-presented-at-eaaci-meeting/