10 Facts Every Parent Should Know About Peanut Allergy—and the Treatment That Might Finally Work

Alamo City Moms Blog is happy to partner with Dr. Paul H. Ratner, M.D., who specializes in the treatment of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology with children and adults, to bring you this post about the latest treatment for peanut allergy.

As parents who are expecting or have little ones, we worry about a lot.

As a father of four children, two of whom are now grown, as well as a set of 13-year-old twins, I can attest to that worry. I’m here to tell you it never really stops, especially when it comes to keeping our children healthy, safe, and protected.

I still question.

I still study.

And I still worry sometimes, and I’m a Board Certified Allergist, in addition to a dad.

I practiced Allergy and Immunology in San Antonio for over 30 years. I now focus on medical research and advancements with Sylvana Research Associates. As such, many parents come to me concerned with their son or daughter having a peanut allergy. And with good reason.

Today, roughly 1 in 58 people has an allergy to peanut. It’s risen more than three-fold in recent years. So even if your child is lucky enough not to be allergic to peanut, his or her friend might be.

Any peanut allergy mom will tell you, the peanut is a nemesis to them, often forcing their child to sit at an exclusive peanut-free lunch table at school. A peanut allergy can be the impetus for bullying. A peanut allergy may not allow for many vacations, if any at all, and can make invitations to birthday parties and sleepovers seldom. Eating out as a family is rare. Often, a family’s entire lifestyle is drastically altered simply to keep a peanut-allergic child safe.

Worse yet, each year we hear about children dying from a reaction triggered by their peanut allergy.

Today, however, I’m excited to share with you that I’m working on what I think could change the future for those with peanut allergy.

What is it?

It’s a peanut powder that’s orally fed to those with a peanut allergy.

This young man, who’s allergic to peanuts, mixes the peanut powder with oatmeal for his dose increases.

It may sound crazy to give peanut to someone with a peanut allergy; however, this new treatment is proving that when it is done in small doses that gradually increase over time, feeding a peanut-allergic person peanut can help a person build a tolerance to it. Therefore, when it’s accidentally eaten, peanut will not cause a reaction. It’s a process we call desensitization and already use in the allergy world with pollens, for example.

But first, I want share with you:

10 Facts Every Parent Should Know About Peanut Allergy

1. Peanut allergy is the most common cause of food-induced anaphylaxis. That’s a life-threatening medical emergency that requires treatment with epinephrine.

2. An allergic response to peanut usually happens within seconds to minutes following exposure.

3. It is recommended parents feed peanut to children at age one. On this, always check with your pediatrician first. Also, you may have recently heard about this study, suggesting we feed our babies peanuts before age one to prevent the development of peanut allergy in children. I do think this is the direction our guidelines for peanut here in the U.S. may eventually move toward. However, it is a slow process, and it could take several years. In the meantime, you should follow your pediatrician’s advice.

4. Symptoms of a peanut allergic reaction often differ with each person or episode. Symptoms can include hives, redness or swelling, itching or tingling in or around the mouth or throat, stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, tightening of the throat, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.

5. Peanuts are main ingredients in many recipes at restaurants. Even if you order a dish you don’t think has nuts, tell your server about a peanut allergy (even more than once is OK!) and ask to speak to the chef to verify that there are no peanut products being used.

6. Those with a peanut allergy should always carry two EpiPens at all times. In 30% of reactions, a second shot of epinephrine is required.

7. Peanut allergy is not the same as nut allergy. They may, however, coexist in the same patient, so a board-certified allergist will check for allergy to all nuts, as well as other foods.

8. Peanut allergy is usually lifelong. Only 20% of children with peanut allergy eventually outgrow it.

9. Having a parent or sibling with peanut allergy generally increases a person’s risk to any allergy, including peanut.

10. There are surprise foods that peanut is sometimes found in. They include: artificial flavoring, chili, chocolate, egg rolls, fried foods, and graham cracker crust. Click here for a more detailed list.

When you read this list of facts about peanut allergy, it’s apparent, isn’t it, how much of a need exists for a treatment.

When I was approached to oversee and conduct the ARC 003 PALISADE Trial for a possible treatment for peanut allergy, I knew it was something I wanted to do, as an allergist and as a father.

I brought on San Antonio allergist Dr. Patricia Gomez Dinger, currently the only allergist in South Texas to conduct Oral Immunotherapy for peanut, as a Sub Investigator for this study. Dr. Dinger has already guided 16 children through OIT (Oral Immunotherapy) for peanut. It is not approved by the FDA at this time.

This clinical trial is trying to do just that—get this specific powder treatment approved through research and careful study.

The clinical trial is now in its final phase of research and being tested on those with peanut allergy right here in San Antonio.

I’m excited to tell you more about the clinical trial for this peanut powder and how it might be able to help your child or someone you know with a peanut allergy.

13-year-old Meagan dreams of attending Stanford University someday. She’s undergoing ARC 003 PALISADES trial with the hopes of treating her peanut allergy to be able to safely go away to school.

First, to qualify for the trial the patient must react to peanut to a certain level during an initial oral challenge. Also, a patient might react to increases in dosage during the trial. So far, reactions with this study have mostly been gastrointestinal, such as upset stomach. There is always the chance, however, a patient could suffer a more severe reaction. This is a scary concept, understandably. However, our patients will tell you they would rather react now under an allergist’s care in a controlled environment than react somewhere unexpected later on.

One of our peanut allergy patients currently enrolled in this clinical trial, for example, is 13. She dreams of going to Stanford University someday to study medicine. Her peanut allergy, however, and the chance that she could suffer a reaction while away at school, is terrifying to this teen and her mom. Whether she can manage her peanut allergy by then is a major factor in where she will someday go to college!  

Finally, because this is a clinical trial, our participants do receive compensation and the treatment at no cost.

I am currently screening for additional patients, age 4–55, for this peanut allergy clinical trial.

We understand the idea of a clinical trial can be a little scary; however, it is the clinical trial that paves the way toward advancement, better understanding, vaccines, treatments, and even cures.

The fact that what we’re doing right here in San Antonio will likely be the first ever FDA-approved treatment for peanut allergy, is huge.

Together, I do believe we are closer to finding a treatment for peanut allergy that might finally work.

Please don’t hesitate to call me to discuss peanut allergy and this clinical trial.

Dr. Paul RatnerDr. Paul H. Ratner, M.D., specializes in the treatment of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology with children and adults. Concurrent with his start of his practice in 1984 he also created Sylvana Research, serving as Medical Director, studying new investigational medicines about to be introduced via Phase 1 through Phase 4 clinical drug trials. A graduate of The State University of New York at Stony Brook with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology in 1971, Dr. Ratner received his Medical Degree from the Albany Medical College of Union University in 1975. Dr. Ratner completed his residency in Pediatrics at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio in 1978. He was appointed as a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatrics in 1979. He completed a two year fellowship in Clinical Allergy and Immunology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio in 1984. Later, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and served on the clinical faculty from 1984 to 1994. Dr Ratner also holds an M.B.A. degree in management from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. Dr. Ratner also provides the daily pollen counts to all local media in San Antonio.

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