SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– For about 3 million Americans, something as simple as a trip to the grocery store could end up as a trip to the hospital due to exposure to food allergens. But a study at Duke university from 2009 shows support for a method that actually promotes contact with these sometimes deadly substances.
The study shows that over time, children who consume small amounts of their allergens may eventually build a tolerance.
Dr. Minh-Thu Le at Cox Medical’s allergy center says she is frequently asked about the unusual treatment by patients who heard about it through some outside source.
“When you have somebody that is caring about their own health, and will be willing to research it, and want to know. We want to talk to our patients about that and give them good information because there is a lot of misinformation out there, especially on the internet,” says Dr. Le.
But Le says this method could be very dangerous if conducted at home.
“I would not do this at home on your own. Peanut allergy can cause anaphylaxis and death and we wouldn’t want that to happen to anyone’s child,” said Le.
In fact, Le says her team at Cox doesn’t promote the method at all, due to a lack of information on the long term effects.
“The things that have been done about the landmark studies, like the 2009 one, they’re not ready for primetime because we can’t know what’s going to happen to these kids in 10, 15, 20 years. What if we give them the peanut product, but now instead of having anaphylaxis, they’re just having swelling in their esophagus,” she said.
In the meantime, Cox is sticking to traditional methods.
“Right now the alternative is avoidance, and carrying an epi pen and getting the most education you can,” she says.