CHICAGO - Peanut allergies are the most dangerous food allergy a child can have, but there is a new FDA-approved treatment that can save lives.
"Palforzia" is a purified peanut protein that prevents a severe allergic reaction.
Palforzia is a powder that comes in a pull-apart capsule. Parents add it to everyday foods like yogurt or applesauce. After eating Palforzia over time, the child becomes desensitized.
"What we try to do is push up their threshold that they are gonig to react to, and force the immune system to learn how to tolerate it over a course of six months," said Dr. Christina Ciaccio of the University of Chicago Food Allergy Program. She was part of the landmark clinical trial that led to the FDA approval.
Palforzia is not a cure and the child cannot suddenly go out and eat a bag of peanuts, but it does make accidental exposure less dangerous. For parents who have spent a child's life tracking every food item, micromanaging meals and micromanaging friends, it's a life saver.
"We'd have to read every label to see if stuff had peanuts," said Joe Edwards, whose seven-year-old son Jeffrey is allergeric. "Even stuff that may contain peanuts or processed on equipment with peanuts. We wouldn't go to restaurants that couldn't guarantee that there would be cross contamination."
The goal is to be able to safely eat the equivalent of two peanuts. That might sound small, but the average child with a peanut allergy can experience hives, wheezing or worse from eating just one third of a single peanut.
Dr. Ciaccio said the pandemic was the perfect time for families to test out Palforzia, since most people were at home.
"For three hours after they take the dose every single day they need to sit still because if they exercise or get their heart rate up, it's going to be more likely they will have an allergic reaction to the medicine," she said.
Jeffrey Edwards' tolerance is now up to a peanut every day. He and his family are looking forward to going to a White Sox game this summer.
"The last time we went there were a ton of peanuts spilled and we had to be really careful. Now I don't have to be careful," Jeffrey Edwards said.