New allergy research shows early exposure may help

(Pgoto courtesy vizzzual via Flickr)

Mary Scott followed her pediatricians' recommendations and waited until giving her son, Henry, peanut products. Since peanut allergies are so common, they decided to wait a year.

But when Henry tried peanut butter for the first time, his face swelled. Scott worried her son would never be able to eat peanuts again - until she took him to see allergist Henry Fishman.

There is now cutting edge new research challenging conventional wisdom about how to treat and prevent food allergies. A prominent study shows peanut allergy risk is 11 times higher for children who aren't exposed to peanut products early in life.

“Theoretically, if preventing them by using peanuts helps, then maybe treating it by taking peanuts may help as well,” says Dr. Henry Fishman, an allergist.

Fishman says eating peanuts in cooked foods could help cure peanut allergies in mild to moderate sufferers. It’s not a standard recommendation but a brand new therapy that seems to work for many.

After qualifying for the therapy, Fishman introduced Henry to peanut oil in cooked foods like crackers. The next step will be giving him a small dose of full peanuts.

While Henry shows the treatment can work, some doctors, like pediatric allergist Dr. Hemant Sharma of Children's National Pediatric Allergist, say it's too soon to use it.

“It's something right now that's only part of research studies because you can have reactions as a result of this treatment. Right now we're still trying to figure out the correct dosing and how it should be done safely,” Sharma says.

It's important to note this new therapy should only be done with a doctor's supervision and is not for those with severe peanut allergies.

Jacques and Julian Kearns are both peanut allergic. Their parents are waiting to find out if their boys qualify for the treatment. If they do, they say they're willing to try it.

“This therapy could help alleviate that concern we live with everyday,” says parent Curtis Kearns. “And that's a good thing.”