Study of peanut allergy gets mixed reaction from parents

Source of Article:  http://www.freep.com/article/20090324/FEATURES01/903240379/1025/FEATURES/Study+of+peanut+allergy+gets+mixed+reaction+from+parents

BY HOLLY RAMER • THE ASSOCIATED PRESS • March 24, 2009

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One mom says she'd be first in line for a promising treatment that exposes children with peanut allergies to tiny amounts of peanut flour. Another remains fearful, with the painful image of her son's face blown up beyond recognition still fresh in her mind.

While some parents of children with life-threatening peanut allergies see a glimmer of hope in a recent study suggesting a possible cure, others remain dubious that it will ever change their children's lives.

"It's like when we were growing up 20 years ago and we saw the flip phones on 'Star Trek' -- that was going to be the wave of the future, but we thought that would never happen," said Eva Stilkey of Raymond, N.H.

"It's great, but those of us who live with the disappointment and the reality of it, you kind of protect yourself. We really do hope it happens someday, but we don't want to have false hope."

Last week, scientists announced the findings of a small study that involved giving a handful of highly allergic children tiny amounts of peanut flour daily for more than two years. Gradually, the children became less sensitive, and so far, five show no remaining sign of the allergy.

Larger studies are beginning to see if the treatment works for more people and how long it lasts. But it was big news for the nearly 2 million Americans who are allergic to peanuts.

Stilkey's son, Nicholas, who turns 5 this month, was 2 1/2 when a bite of peanut butter pie sparked a severe reaction.

"We had him spit it out, and when he did, when he lifted his head back up. I couldn't even recognize him. His face was blown up to a point where there was no separation between his nose or his lips. He was stuffing his hands frantically down his throat trying to breathe," she said.

Stilkey considers the study participants heroes, but she's in no hurry to follow in their footsteps.

"I am full of complete admiration for the parents and those children who put themselves through that because I know as a mother, I would be absolutely fearful to try to put Nick through that, just because I've seen what happened to him," she said.

Tamara Leibowitz, who runs a support group for parents of children with food allergies in Portsmouth, N.H., said it would be a leap of faith to subject her son to small doses of what essentially has been considered poison, but "I think we'd jump at the chance."

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"My son would be terrified at the beginning, but he's been paying attention, too, even at 9 years old, and he's really encouraged by what he sees," she said, describing her own reaction as "cautiously optimistic."

In Orange County, Calif., Louise Larsen said she, too, would seek out the treatment if it becomes available.

"Would I put my child through that? Sure, if I sat right next to her, and we went very slowly and it was in a very controlled setting," said Larsen, whose 12-year-old daughter is allergic to peanuts. But she said she would never be completely convinced that the allergy was gone.

"Even if they did conclude she no longer had any allergy, as her mom, I'm going to send an EpiPen with her until she goes to college," she said, describing the portable injections used to treat anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction marked by swelling of the throat or tongue, hives, and breathing trouble.

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Tamara Leibowitz, who runs a support group for parents of children with food allergies in Portsmouth, N.H., said it would be a leap of faith to subject her son to small doses of what essentially has been considered poison, but "I think we'd jump at the chance."

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"My son would be terrified at the beginning, but he's been paying attention, too, even at 9 years old, and he's really encouraged by what he sees," she said, describing her own reaction as "cautiously optimistic."

In Orange County, Calif., Louise Larsen said she, too, would seek out the treatment if it becomes available.

"Would I put my child through that? Sure, if I sat right next to her, and we went very slowly and it was in a very controlled setting," said Larsen, whose 12-year-old daughter is allergic to peanuts. But she said she would never be completely convinced that the allergy was gone.

"Even if they did conclude she no longer had any allergy, as her mom, I'm going to send an EpiPen with her until she goes to college," she said, describing the portable injections used to treat anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction marked by swelling of the throat or tongue, hives, and breathing trouble.

 

 

 

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