Food Allergy Research Offers Hope

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Throughout the past nine years, there have been many times I’ve bemoaned the fact that we live in an era of skyrocketing numbers of food allergies. The truth is, though, there is no better time to be living with them than right now. Progress is being made on behalf of the millions who live with food allergies by brilliant and dedicated minds worldwide.

I spent as much of this past weekend as I could following the 2016 AAAAI Annual Meeting (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology) by monitoring the Twitter hashtag #AAAAI16. I’m telling you right now that 95% of the presentations made it either past me (time constraints) or went straight over my head (I’m definitely not a scientist or a doctor). What I did see, though, as your average run-of-the-mill allergy mom was so very encouraging. We as a collective culture will benefit richly from the work these people are doing.

That said, let’s tackle the biggest headline maker out of the conference: the LEAP-On study. This is the one that you’re likely being inundated with right now by well-meaning friends and family members. Last year when the LEAP study was released at the 2015 conference, I worked through my feelings about it in this post. This year, a follow-up to that study was released in the name of LEAP-On creating some pretty splashy headlines like “Feeding kids peanuts prevents allergies long-term, study shows” and my personal fav “Scientists: Stuff your baby full of peanuts.”

peanut allergy - food allergy research

Those of us that have lived in the allergic world longer than a year or two know the recommendations from LEAP and LEAP-On are the exact opposite of what the medical establishment recommended as little as seven years ago. Now they say feeding your at-risk baby peanuts may help protect your baby from developing peanut allergies. (Sidenote: Consulting with a board certified allergist before doing so is the safest way to consider introducing peanuts if you believe your child is at high risk of developing food allergies. I am merely reporting the study results; not recommending you feed your child peanuts.)

My point here is this: Studies and their ensuing recommendations will come and go. We parents will always do the best we can with the information we have at any given time. Am I thrilled that recommendations have come out now that could have helped us then? Well, no. I’m sorry we didn’t have that information then, but I am absolutely thrilled that scientists are moving forward to determine both causes and treatments for food allergies. I would never wish a life of multiple severe food allergies on anyone, and because of that – even though LEAP and LEAP-On show something different than our own personal experience – I am over the moon that moms of at-risk babies now and in the future may not have to walk this path because of these great strides in preventative food allergy research.

If you’re interested in reading more about the study, this article breaks it down in easy to understand terms without sensationalizing the study or its results.

These studies are precisely the reason why today, our time right now, is a good time to be living with food allergies. There is hope!

With all of the research underway today – compared with 20 years ago – I am hopeful that food allergies will be a thing of the past, or at the very least accidental exposures will be less likely to lead to an ER visit and possible hospitalization. Top scientists held many, many conversations about treatments at the conference, notably Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT), Oral Immunotherapy (OIT), and Epicutaneous Immunotherapy (EPIT – best known as the “Peanut Patch”) and those conversations will continue, no doubt.

The discussion about “the Patch” caught my eye over all others – partially for personal reasons since the company behind it was reporting on the study that Zachary was to have been a part of, and also because I’m curious like that. DBV Technologies held a webcast Sunday night with major players presenting their findings from their own roles in the study. Each one shared his or her experience with “the Patch” for peanut allergies and the webcast even went further into detail discussing the new milk patch study and how the treatment may also be effective for individuals with Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE).

There is so much to report from this presentation. My biggest takeaways were that:

-It’s safe, out of all study participants, there were no serious adverse events (read: anaphylactic reactions requiring epinephrine)

Peanut Patch Study - Food Allergy Research-It’s easy to use – 96% of study participants complied throughout a two-year process

-It’s currently most effective on children under 11 (ages 6-11 were trialed)

-Participants treated by the active, medicated patch (rather than the placebo) were able to ingest an increased amount of peanut before a reaction occurred.

The full webcast is archived here. I highly recommend taking some time to watch the presentations given.

I could talk your ear off for days on all of the information I consumed during that conference, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll close out with this final thought:

These are good days to be living with food allergies (and other allergic diseases) because brilliant, dedicated men and women worldwide are committed to making our lives safer. The two studies I share with you here don’t come close to scratching the surface of the ginormous amounts of information shared.

What became clear to me throughout my own personal Twitter party during the conference is that these people care about us and our loved ones. They care about the quality of life our allergic children have. They want to find answers, too and – if I were a betting woman – I’d bet on this group of people to find them.

 

 

 

 

Tiffany Self

Tiffany Self is a wife, mom to "Z", and a lover of words. In an ironic twist, she is an English class dropout who now writes for a living. Tiffany is a freelancer in the Chicago suburbs by way of Seattle and Southern Oregon. She writes about her journey of parenting a child with multiple severe food allergies, asthma, and environmental allergies. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

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