A new experimental drug can help allergic people lead a more normal life. The drug, called AR101, is seeking approval from the FDA, and a new study has shown the results it produces in children and adolescents. It does not cure allergy to peanuts, but it allows those who suffer from it to have a less severe reaction.
These allergies are not a joke. People with peanut allergies often have to change the way they travel, where they eat and how they live. Exposure, even in very small amounts, can cause skin rashes, breathing problems or even death.
Historically, once an allergy developed, often at an early age, parents had few options except to take care of their children, and doctors would recommend avoiding them for life. For many children, this meant going to birthday parties with their own treats and taking a large number of medications.
What kind of symptoms and reactions do children have with the foods they are allergic to?
For some children, an allergic reaction to a particular food may be an uncomfortable tingling in the lips and mouth. For others, it is a medical emergency that is serious and even deadly. The symptoms of food allergy usually take between a few minutes and two hours to develop after ingesting the food that causes it. The most common signs and symptoms include:
– Tingling or itching in the mouth
– Urticaria or itching of the skin.
– Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body.
– Nasal congestion
– Difficult breathing
– Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting.
– Dizziness, lightheadedness
Some children develop anaphylaxis, the serious reaction that can be life-threatening and includes a constriction of the airways that hinders breathing, a severe decrease in blood pressure, rapid pulse, dizziness, lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness. People with symptoms of anaphylaxis should use their epinephrine auto-injector if they bring one and go immediately to the emergency room.
The new study, which used a representative survey of parents of nearly 40,000 children in the US UU., Found that approximately one in five children with food allergies have come to the emergency room for symptoms related to food allergy at least once in the previous year. This information is in line with previous research that showed that there was an increase of almost 200 percent in emergency visits of severe allergic reactions induced by food from 2005 to 2014 among children from 5 to 17 years.
What are the treatments we now have for severe allergic reactions?
For some people, a mild allergic reaction can mean a rash and itchy throat. For these people, doctors recommend strict control of the foods that may be causing this and the ingestion of antihistamines such as Benadryl and Pepcid.
If you see that someone has a severe allergic reaction, it is important to act quickly and immediately call 911. At the scene you can use an epinephrine auto-injector and try to keep the person calm.
In the hospital, doctors often treat the person with antihistamines and intravenous steroids, as well as epinephrine injected directly into the muscle of the thigh or arm to treat the reaction and reduce possible recurrence at 4-6 hours after the initial exposure. .
What is AR101?
A group from the University of Cambridge demonstrated in 2014 that using a processed form of peanut flour could induce a less severe allergic reaction over time in children. Now, a new study called the PALISADES trial has presented a new option that shows promising results: with AR101.
In the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers took people who were very allergic to peanuts, unable to tolerate even half a peanut without serious symptoms, and gave them a placebo powder or AR101.
AR101 is an oral immunotherapy medication that is derived from the peanut itself. The researchers exposed the group to small amounts of peanut-derived powder. The goal was not to cure the allergy, but to allow minor or accidental exposures to occur without triggering a life-threatening reaction.
After months of ingesting the oral medication, many of the children were able to tolerate the equivalent of 2 to 4 peanuts with a minor reaction, or no reaction at all. There were some challenges. The adverse reactions caused by the treatment caused that 11 percent of the group of medicines left and 14 percent of the children in the group of medicines ended up using an epinephrine auto-injector for the reactions related to the medicines. This is not a medication to start at home.
That said, since almost one in every fifty American children is allergic to peanuts, it is likely that this new drug is in great demand. But there are questions that still need to be answered. We do not know the long-term effects of allergen intake and we do not know how long the muffled immune reaction will last. However, most parents would agree that eating a small pill daily to avoid living in fear is a small price to pay. However, it is unknown how much the medication would cost.
Johanna Kreafle, M.D. is an emergency physician at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.
Sumir Shah, M.D. is an emergency medicine physician in New York City and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.