Sunday, July 19, 2009

Harmful Cure

Over the past few weeks I’ve seen a scary trend in news articles regarding food allergies.

Scientists find nut allergy children cure
Nut allergy children cured by new treatment

There are more and more articles touting the UK study that involves feeding children peanuts in increasing doses as a “cure” for peanut allergies. While I am happy for the children that this study has helped (and their parents), there are few news outlets that mention the children whose reactions were so severe that they were unable to continue the study.

With the prevailing attitude on food allergies being “why should my child change their eating habits to accommodate yours”, children like Liam – whose anaphylactic reaction is triggered by trace amounts (near 10ppm) of peanut protein – may be put more into danger. The more militant of the anti-allergy camp could take this news and say that the allergy can be “cured” so there is even less reason to make peanut-safe policies in schools, or label allergens.

I realize this is a drastic view of the argument, but there is also another problem with this kind of study. What if – for example – there are three siblings involved in the study and two are “cured” of their peanut allergy while one remains trace-amount allergic? In order to keep the allergy from redeveloping, the two siblings would be required to eat peanuts on a regular basis. How do you manage this in a house where the third child cannot be near peanuts – or people who have eaten peanuts – without reacting?

This is similar to the scenario we were faced with on our last visit to the allergist. Liam’s older brothers’ allergies are declining where they may be able to peanuts in the future, but at that point they would have to continue eating peanuts on a regular basis to keep the allergy from returning. Again, because Liam’s reactions are so severe and his allergy’s threshold is so low, there is no way we would be able to keep the house trace-amount peanut-free.

So while the news of treatments that raise the participants’ thresholds for reactions is good news, it still does not provide a “cure” that parents are praying for. However, there is uplifting news coming out of Glasgow University.

Find 'could cut allergy deaths'
Discovery offers hope for nut allergy sufferers

Researchers there have found the molecule responsible for triggering anaphylactic reactions, and preliminary lab tests have shown favourable results in blocking the molecule to reduce the severity of the reaction.

While we may not have a cure yet, thankfully there are signs that we are heading in the right direction.


  1. Hi Shawn,

    It's nice to hear that researchers are actually trying to find a cure and it seems like they are well on their way. I'm Hua, the director of Wellsphere's HealthBlogger Network, a network of over 2,000 of the best health writers on the web (including doctors, nurses, healthy living professionals, and expert patients). I think your blog would be a great addition to the Network, and I'd like to invite you to learn more about it and apply to join at Once approved by our Chief Medical Officer, your posts will be republished on Wellsphere where they will be available to over 5 million monthly visitors who come to the site looking for health information and support. There’s no cost and no extra work for you! The HealthBlogger page ( provides details about participation, but if you have any questions please feel free to email me at


  2. Thanks for the endorsement, Hua! If these posts can help other parents learning to live with their child's food allergy that's more than worth it. I'll definitely check it out!