Sarasota doctor gives peanuts to allergic patients to fight allergy

Peanuts
(AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

SARASOTA, FL (WFLA) — A peanut allergy desensitization treatment offered in Sarasota could help students have the same experience as their non-allergic classmates. Peanut exposure to those who are allergic can cause hives, swelling, even death. It’s scary for parents to send kids with peanut allergies to school, where they have less control. Because of this, many allergic students are often isolated and left out of group activities that involve food – like birthday parties.

Seventh grader Sarah Frank says, “No matter where I went, I would always have to check the labels for food and most often baked items, stuff like that. It wasn’t safe for me and I couldn’t eat it, and I missed being able to eat it. I used to eat all the brownies and cake yummy stuff like that that.”

Sending Sarah to school required special attention, and not just from teachers. “Asking other parents, could you not bring that in, could you only bring in peanut-safe products,” explains Sarah’s mom Gaile Frank. She says that is the norm for parents of children with peanut allergies.

Sarah’s condition was discovered when she was ten-years-old while playing the role of a squirrel in a school play, using real peanuts as a prop. After she experienced hives and trouble breathing, her school experience changed for what she thought would be forever. That changed when she started oral immunotherapy, fighting the peanut allergy by eating peanuts, supervised.

Sarah’s allergy specialist, Dr. Hugh Windom explains, “It’s something that’s very dangerous, and we do it so slowly that they acclimate and we actually push away their threshold.”

Starting with just one-ten-thousandth of a peanut, patients work their way up to 10 full peanuts. Even without adverse effects, the process can take months and is not a cure. The doctor explains patients will have to take these special doses for the rest of their lives to ward off allergic reactions. The hope is that one day these patients will be fully peanut tolerant.

In the meantime, Sarah is just happy to participate in the full school experience. “Eating lunch with my friends is gonna be great,” she says.

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