What treatments are available for peanut allergies?
Peanut allergies can cause a wide range of symptoms, from rashes and itching to life-threatening breathing difficulties. There is now a treatment to change the threshold at which children with allergies react to peanuts, aiming to reduce the severity of the symptoms they experience.
How common are peanut allergies?
For people with peanut allergies, allergic reactions can be at best uncomfortable and at worst life-threatening. Peanut allergies are one of the most common food allergies, with one in 50 children in the UK experiencing allergic symptoms as a response to consuming peanuts. This figure really highlights the prevalence of peanut allergies – but are there any available treatments to help reduce the severity of symptoms?
After years of research and development, there is now one NICE-approved treatment for a food allergy. Palforzia, which has been licensed for use in children aged 4-17, is available at Evelina London Children’s Hospital with both NHS and private routes available.
What are the symptoms of peanut allergies?
The symptoms of peanut allergies can vary from person to person. Reactions to peanuts can also be different each time for the same person, depending on how much peanut they have consumed.
Examples of mild allergic reactions to peanuts are:
- skin reactions such as rashes or hives
- itching in the mouth
- runny nose
- stomach cramps or vomiting.
A life-threatening reaction to peanuts (or any food you’re allergic to) is called anaphylaxis, which requires emergency medical treatment. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- swelling in the throat
- narrowing of airways
- difficulty breathing
- high heartrate
- loss of consciousness.
People with severe peanut allergies should carry an adrenaline auto-injector with them at all times in case of anaphylaxis after accidentally eating peanut. You should always call 999 in the case of anaphylaxis, even if you have used an autoinjector already.
How does the treatment for peanut allergies work?
Palforzia is a new treatment which changes the level at which children with peanut allergies react to peanuts. While it’s not a cure for peanut allergies, it can help to prevent severe reactions.
The Palforzia treatment works by the child eating a small amount of peanut protein every day. The medication containing the peanut protein comes in the form of a powder which must be mixed in with foods such as yoghurt or rice pudding. This ensures the powder is fully coated in the food, preventing any oral allergic reactions.
There are 11 different dose levels of Palforzia. The child begins by taking a very small dose which is gradually increased over several months – usually for between four and six months. This allows them to build tolerance to the peanut in the medication, before going onto the final dose of Palforzia which is equivalent to around one whole peanut. Every new up-dose is taken in hospital.
The child will need to take this final dose of Palforzia for up to around 18 months, after which point they can begin eating one whole peanut each day.
Children will need to continue avoidance of peanut in their diets, however they will need to eat around one whole peanut each day for the rest of their lives. This helps to keep up the body’s tolerance and prevent further severe reactions in the future.
What are the results of treatment for peanut allergy?
Although Palforzia is a relatively new treatment, results from several studies are very promising.
In the largest trial with Palforzia, 372 children (4-17 years old) received Palforzia and 124 received placebo. Of participants taking Palforzia:
- 76% tolerated 300mg (roughly one peanut)
- 67% tolerated 600mg
- 3% tolerated 1000mg.
Of the placebo group (those taking an inactive product not containing peanut), the respective tolerance levels for these amounts of peanut were just 8%, 4% and 2.4%.
Of the children that continued Palforzia to 12 months (excluding those who dropped out or were unable to continue):
- 96% tolerated 300mg
- 84% tolerated 600mg
- 63% tolerated 1000mg.
For children whose lives and daily activities are limited by peanut allergies, Palforzia can be a life-changing treatment. It removes the fear of a severe, life-threatening reaction and the benefits aren’t only for the patient, but also for their families and caregivers.
After finishing Palforzia treatment, children still must avoid peanut as the treatment isn’t a cure for peanut allergy. However, Palforzia does mean that accidental exposure to food containing small amounts of peanut may be less likely to result in a severe reaction.
Contact us to learn more
If your child has a peanut allergy, our allergy team at Evelina London are here to help. Discover more about Palforzia treatment or get in touch with our customer services team to book an appointment with our allergy specialists. Email us or call 020 7188 5197.
This content has been verified by Dr Elizabeth Powell, consultant in paediatric allergy and joint lead for peanut oral immunotherapy at Evelina London.