A new study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology tested the theory that taking low doses of an allergen could actually help build a tolerance to it.
Researchers tested 40 peanut-allergic children and adults to determine the maximum amount of peanut they could take before an allergic reaction took place. They then gave half of them minuscule quantities of peanut powder daily, gradually increasing doses. The other half got a placebo.
After nearly a year (44 weeks), 14 of the 20 who received the peanuts were able to tolerate more than 10 times as much peanut as they were at the beginning of the study. Only three of those given a placebo could make the same claim. Many receiving the peanut powder showed a 100-fold or higher tolerance increase.
Don’t Try This at Home
Obviously, this worked very well in the lab, but you shouldn’t try this at home. The researchers say the results are preliminary as the test group was relatively small and they did place limits on how much peanut they would expose anyone to regardless of how much more tolerant they appeared to be – even with that limit, one participant still required an EpiPen. The next step would be to use the same program on a much larger, more representative test group.
Severe Allergies May Improve Most
The findings do suggest, however, that this type of therapy may be a way some peanut allergy suffers can better protect themselves in a world where peanuts seem to be in everything. Those who have the most severe reactions may see the most benefit. What’s more, this idea may be replicable to many other situations. Even common allergies such as hay fever could be helped.