Peanuts: The cure for peanut allergies?

December 7, 2009 8:41:12 AM PST
According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, a food allergy is an immune system response to a food the body thinks is harmful. The digestion of some foods can trigger a sudden release of chemicals that act to fight off the poisonous food. Scientists estimate 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies a year, which is approximately one in 25. Individuals may be allergic to any food, but eight foods account for 90 percent of all allergic reactions. These are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat. Duke Medicine News reports peanut allergies are the leading cause of food-induced anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening reaction that constricts the airways and lungs. About 100 adults and children die each year because of peanut allergic reactions, and the allergy also accounts for 15, 000 emergency room visits a year.

SYMPTOMS OF FOOD ALLERGIES: Symptoms may range from mild to severe. Some mild symptoms include rashes, hives, itching and swelling. Some severe symptoms include trouble breathing, wheezing and loss of consciousness. Symptoms may also include a tingling sensation in the mouth, swelling of the tongue and throat, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and a drop in blood pressure. Usually, symptoms appear within minutes to two hours after the food is consumed.

TREATMENTS: The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network says that you should avoid the allergy-causing food to avoid any harmful reactions. A key to avoiding reactions is to read the ingredient labels for all foods, and if the product doesn't have a label, do not eat the food. Currently, there are no medicines that can cure food allergies, but research shows many people outgrow their allergies except in the cases of peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish, which are considered lifelong allergies. If an allergic reaction is severe, one may treat it with Epinephrine, also know as adrenaline. Epinephrine is available by prescription as a self-injectable device, EpiPen or Twinject.

PEANUT THERAPY AT DUKE UNIVERSITY: Investigators at Duke University are conducting research on children who have peanut allergies. Researchers are looking at exposing kids to the foods they are allergic to, to determine if it will help build tolerance. The study involves a medically supervised exposure to increasing amounts of peanut flour. Researchers have found that the immune system no longer attacks the peanut flour, but rather ignores it after a period of time.

? For More Information, Contact: Duke University Medical Center Division of Allergy & Immunology Durham, NC (919) 668-1333


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