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Allergies Health Center

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Progress Against Peanut Allergies

Oral Immunotherapy May Desensitize Allergic Children; Skin Test May Predict Who Will Outgrow

Goals of Immunotherapy

"What we would like to have happen is for their food allergy to go away," Nash says.

For now, however, he says, "We have essentially proven they can tolerate an accidental ingestion. We think our patients now are at reduced risk for anaphylaxis."

Egg Allergies Studied

"No one should try this at home," Nash cautions. The concept is still in the research phases, and Nash says it's difficult to say when allergists might begin adopting the practice.

Parents in the study were told to contact the center if they suspected reactions; most reactions occurred in the clinic, not at home, Nash says.

More research is needed, he says, to prove the concept safe and effective.

Similar research is being done with egg immunotherapy. Wesley Burks, MD, another author of the peanut immunotherapy study, has done a similar study on egg allergies, Nash says.

The Remission Question

When parents find out their child is allergic to peanuts, they always ask the same question, says Katie Allen, MD, PhD: "Are they going to be one of the 20% who grow out of it?"

Allen is a pediatric gastroenterologist and allergist at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

Until recently, doctors could only guess.

Now, Allen has found some good predictors by looking at skin prick test results.

The Skin Prick Test

In this test, commonly used by allergists, the skin is pricked and a tiny amount of the allergen is dropped onto the skin.

If the person is allergic to the substance, the body's allergic antibody, immunoglobulin E (IgE), is triggered and a chain reaction is set off, resulting in the patch of pricked skin becoming red and swollen.

This raised bump or small hive is called a wheal, and its size is known to give clues about allergies, Allen tells WebMD.

It's well-known by allergists, she says, that "kids who are 12 months old and have a skin prick with a wheal that is more than 4 millimeters means they are more than likely to have a reaction [if they eat the food they're suspected of being allergic to]."

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