SAN ANTONIO — A revolutionary medication that aims to attack one of the most common food allergies – peanuts – is the first to be approved by the FDA for allergies. Experts say they hope the drug will save lives.
"One of my friends (says) they can't eat peanuts, but they can smell it and stuff. So we try to not eat peanuts there or we stay away," said 11-year-old Julianna Jaegar, who suffers from typical seasonal allergies, but really feels for those who have severe peanut allergies. "At any time they could get an allergic reaction from it."
Dr. Lukena Karkhanis, an allergist with Allergy and Asthma Immunology Associates said, said that peanut allergies have humble beginning; initial exposure may now yield any symptoms.
"It's when they eat for the second or third time a good quantity of peanuts or peanut butter that they have a severe reaction," Karkhanis said.
The symptoms from peanut allergies can range from skin reactions such as hives, redness or swelling, digestive problems, tightening of the throat, shortness of breath or bronchospasms, and even cardiac arrest.
"Any food allergies can be taxing to the patient and their family," Karkhanis said.
When it comes to food in the U.S., allergic reactions cause about 30,000 emergency room visits a year. More than 1.6 million children and teens in the U.S. are allergic to peanuts. For those with peanut allergies, even 1/30th of a peanut can cause a severe reaction.
But just two weeks ago, the FDA approved the first and only food allergy medication on the market called Palforzia.
"Palforzia is a tiny amount of purified peanut protein and we need to desensitize peanut allergic patients," Karkhanis said.
The dosing process takes a few months.
"These people will get desensitized and most people are able to tolerate up to four peanuts with mild to no symptoms once they're build up on Palforzia," Karkhanis added.
It won't cure them, but it will decrease the likelihood of a severe reaction if the child were to accidentally eat a peanut. And it's not just for the kids' benefit; it can also help parents breathe a little easier, metaphorically speaking.
"I think it will give the parents a peace of mind in terms of not having to watch their kids all the time, in terms of what they might eat or touch," Karkhanis said.