KCUR: ‘Get Your Peanut Dust’: Kansas City Doc Prescribes Tiny Doses Over Months To Treat Peanut Allergies
By Alex Smith
When Porter Hall of Raymore, Missouri, was a year old, he broke out in hives after eating a spoonful of peanut butter. It led to a scary night in the emergency room and a diagnosis of peanut allergy.
But today, Porter, who’s now five, is giving peanuts another shot with the help of Kansas City doctors, who have been giving him tiny doses of peanuts over the course of months.
At Children’s Mercy Hospital in Overland Park, nurse practitioner Jodi Shroba gives Porter a quick once-over in preparation for administering a tiny dose of what’s essentially peanut dust.
Like many parents dealing with a child’s allergy, Porter’s mother, Amy Hall, says she was initially “freaked out,” and took dramatic steps to keep peanuts away, including purging the contents of her kitchen cabinets.
Children’s Mercy doctor Jay Portnoy explains that gradually increasing exposures are meant to reduce severe reactions by exhausting the immune system’s of chemicals like histamine that lead to those reactions.
“We’re creating like little mini-reactions that are so small that the patient doesn’t notice it. Occasionally, they’ll get itchy mouth, they might get a little bit of stomach ache, but for the most part, these reactions are definitely tolerable, and then as we increase it, they become more and more tolerant of the peanut allergen,” Portnoy says.
After six months, Portnoy says patients may be able to tolerate a few peanuts at a time, if they keep the exposures going.
At this point, it’s unclear how much he’ll benefit from the treatment, but Amy Hall says just seeing her son get this far has been reassuring.
“It’s made me be a little bit more at ease with him being able to eat at other peoples’ houses,” Hall says. “Or when Halloween rolls around, you never know what kind of candy they’re going to get. It makes me feel a little bit more at ease, but not 100%.”
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Learn more about Allergy & Immunology at Children's Mercy