(NEW YORK) — A peanut allergy treatment often used on children 4 years old and up in the U.S. appears to be safe for toddlers too, a new study has found.
Around 2% of children in the country suffer from the allergy, some to a debilitating degree, which is why the discovery is “extremely exciting,” said Dr. David Stukus, professor of clinical pediatrics and director of the Food Allergy Treatment Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
In the study, conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases across multiple hospitals, researchers added powder containing peanuts to the daily diets of children, and found that over time, a large majority of them became desensitized to peanuts.
A smaller group of children even achieved full remission, meaning they were no longer allergic to peanuts at all.
While almost all the children studied had reactions to the peanut products, most were mild to moderate in severity, experts said.
The study also found that the younger the patients were when they started the treatment, the better they were able to tolerate peanuts, and the more likely they were to achieve full remission.
This means the treatment may be more effective if started while children’s immune systems are still developing.
“This suggests that if we do start treatment younger, there is a potential to help some children become non-allergic,” said Dr. Lisa Wheatley, section chief at the NIAID Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation.
Pediatric immunology experts interviewed by ABC News said they believe the study marks an important step in allergy research; still, they said more studies are needed to better understand young children’s immune systems and how they change.
The experts said children with a history of severe allergic reactions were excluded from the study, and warned that adding peanut products to the diets of children with known peanut allergies can cause serious reactions and should only be done under the guidance of a physician.
They added that while the study’s findings are promising, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan for children with peanut allergies, and parents must weigh the risks, benefits and expectations before letting their kids receive a treatment of any kind.
Aubrie Ford is an emergency medicine resident at Northwell Health, in New York, and a contributor to the ABC News Med Unit.
Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.