JOHNSON CO., Kan. - A new peanut allergy treatment is now available in Kansas City for patients – a number which is on the rise .
Some patients are trying OIT, or oral immunotherapy, also known as desensitization. The alternative peanut allergy therapy slowly introduces patients to peanut protein with increasing doses each week.
“If they get an exposure to peanut, it protects them from a reaction,” Dr. Derrick Ward with Kansas City Allergy and Asthma said.
The private practice clinic is the first in Kansas City to add desensitization after patients kept asking for it locally. The next nearest clinics offering the peanut therapy are in Des Moines, Iowa and Dallas, Texas.
“There's not a lot of clinics in the United States offering this treatment, probably around 30 to 35,” Dr. Ward said.
A medical study in The Lancet found desensitization works for nearly 85 percent of peanut allergy patients.
“So 15 percent of people ultimately fail, but it's not necessarily because they are having reaction. Some, we've had some kids that they just don't like the taste of peanut,” Dr. Ward told 41 Action News.
Patients who finish the six month therapy program are supposed to eat eight peanuts every day to maintain their desensitization.
Not everyone thinks the therapy is ready yet.
“Once the patient stops the peanut therapy then what happens? Have they completely outgrown it?” Dr. Chitra Dinakar, a pediatric allergist at Children’s Mercy Hospital , said.
Dr. Dinakar said new research is inconclusive on peanut allergy therapies like desensitization. Children’s Mercy plans to start research studies to test peanut allergy treatments on patients.
“The scientific community says really it should be limited to research studies for now,” Dr. Dinakar said. “The risks are they could have a systemic reaction and, as yet, we don't know how to identify the patient who will.”
The worry about possible reaction is nothing new for patients, according to Kansas City Allergy and Asthma, which plans to add more foods to its desensitization program like other nuts, eggs, milk and wheat.
“That's what they deal with on a day-to-day basis anyway,” Dr. Ward said.
Sofia Valdez has worried about peanut allergies her entire life, and she just started going through peanut desensitization a few weeks ago.
“If I get exposed to a peanut, then I will have an anaphylactic shock which could kill me,” Valdez said.
Her mother also worries about Sofia being exposed to peanuts at school, birthday parties, or even a friend's house.
“She could have as little as five minutes to get epinephrine to save her life,” Christina Valdez said.
The Valdez family hopes desensitization works for Sofia so she can live a normal life.
“It'll be like a really big relief,” Sofia said.
For now, they still have to worry about accidental exposures that threaten her life wherever she goes.