Health Headlines: New immunotherapy helping those with deadly allergies

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Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 6:43 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - There’s a new therapy that may help people suffering from food allergies that are otherwise deadly.

A popsicle is safe for Adelina Ziemann, but not everything is.

“I was throwing up and my, like, skin was really rashy,” says Adelina.

She’s allergic to peanuts and knows all too well that she can’t enjoy everything her little sister Zoe can.

Her mother, Amanda, recalled one incident saying, “She and her friend got into a bag of what they thought was M&M’s but were Reese’s pieces.”

1 in 50 kids have a peanut allergy like Adelina. It’s the most likely food to cause a reaction. In fact, there’s been a 21% increase in peanut allergies in children since 2010.

Oral immunotherapy, or OIT, is the latest procedure that slowly introduces tiny doses of the food to the person with the allergy.

Dr. Melanie Makhija with the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital explains, “We actually start with 1/600th of a peanut.”

In 2020, the FDA approved the first treatment for kids ages 4 to 17 with a peanut allergy. Palforzia is a drug made from peanut flour.

“The goal of oral immunotherapy is to trick the child’s body into thinking they’re not allergic,” says Dr. Makhija.

A recent study found that 72% of people who suffer from a life-threatening peanut allergy didn’t even know OIT existed.

After just one year of OIT, Adelina can now eat one peanut’s worth of protein a day.

She says, “Every morning, I mix in peanuts with something else and I have to eat it.”

It’s just enough that her mother feels safer knowing that if Adelina does have a reaction, she’ll survive it.

Patients like Adelina who begin OIT will need to continue to expose themselves to small doses of peanut protein for the rest of their lives or the life-threatening reactions could return.