Could the secret to treating peanut allergies be ... peanuts?
A small new study conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health shows that sublingual immunotherapy -- where, under medical supervision, you put small traces of an allergen under an allergic person's tongue until their sensitivity to the allergen is lowered -- is linked with decreased sensitivity to peanut powder among peanut allergic people.
The researchers stressed that people shouldn't try this method on their own, as it could be highly dangerous for food-allergic people.
The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, included 40 people with peanut allergy who were between ages 12 and 37. Half the study participants underwent 44 weeks of the sublingual immunotherapy with peanut powder, while the other half of the people underwent a placebo procedure. Researchers tested all the study participants at the start of the study to see how much of the peanut powder was safe for them to have before an allergic reaction resulted.
By the end of the study period, 70 percent (14 out of 20) of the people who received the sublingual immunotherapy had a decreased sensitivity to the peanut powder, and were able to stand 10 times more of it than at the start of the study. Meanwhile, just 15 percent (three out of 20) of those in the placebo group experienced this effect by the study's end.
Plus, after 68 weeks of undergoing the sublingual immunotherapy, the researchers found that the study participants' tolerance to the peanut powder grew even higher.
Researchers noted that side effects of the sublingual immunotherapy included mouth itchiness, but that nothing more serious or deadly resulted from the experiment.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports that peanut allergies are the most common among children, with milk allergies being second most common and shellfish alleges being third most common.