A new study gives hope to people with nut allergies


Aimmune Therapeutics, a California-based company, recently conducted a study where researchers gave daily doses of peanut flour to children between the ages of four and 17 with known peanut allergies. Approximately 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies including milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, and many others. Recent statistics have concluded that one in 13 children, which is roughly two in every classroom, is allergic to peanuts, according to foodallergy.org. As a result of this, many schools have adopted nut-aware policies in order to keep students safe from allergic reactions to certain products.

Individuals with allergies may have an abnormal reaction to certain foods containing nuts. When an individual has an allergic reaction, their immune system produces antibodies which alert the body that an allergic reaction is occurring. This usually leads to symptoms such as an itchy nose, throat, or skin. 

A nutrition label displaying ingredients of a product including eggs, gluten, milk, and traces of nuts.
Juliana Collins ’19

The study involved around 500 children, each receiving daily capsules of either peanut powder or “dummy” powder. The scientists tested the peanut powder to see if it helped children build a tolerance towards their allergy. By ingesting these capsules every day, the subjects are expected to become sensitized to nuts and be less likely to display severe symptoms, according to usatoday.com. “Dummy” powder are capsules that look like peanut powder capsules but have no effect. Those who ingested the “dummy” powder acted as a control group for the study, as scientists compared them with the variable group to reveal the true effects of the peanut powder. 

In the study, scientists began by giving children a small number of capsules, increasing the doses over the course of six months. By the end of the study, 67 percent of the children who took the peanut powder tolerated roughly the equivalent of two peanuts, while only four percent of those who received the “dummy” powder could, according to usatoday.com

Sacred Heart Greenwich junior Erin Quigley has a nut allergy and shared her thoughts on how a cure could be beneficial for her and others with allergies. 

“I find that my allergies can make eating in restaurants or trying new foods very stressful, so it would be nice if I didn’t have to deal with that anymore,” Erin said.

The constant rise in food allergies leads to scientists conducting research to find a cure. Courtesy of nypost.com

Scientists will continue to evaluate the results of this experiment over the course of the next few months. Although this new research does not completely cure nut allergies, the study may allow a child to be more tolerant of nuts. 

Because nut allergies can range from mild to severe, many schools are creating nut-free policies which limit a child’s exposure to products containing nuts. When a school decides to adopt a nut-free policy, it lowers the risk of children experiencing allergic reactions at school. Sacred Heart is a peanut and nut-aware school, meaning that the school and administrators try to limit the amount of peanut and nut products within the community. Even though the campus is not completely nut free, the Sacred Heart lunch plan incorporates foods for those who have peanut and nut allergies.

School nurse Mrs. Mary Walsh helps to ensure that all students with allergies are safe when on campus. Students with allergies carry their epi-pens with them in Middle School and Upper School, while Lower School students give their epi-pen to their teacher throughout the day. The health office also has backup epi-pens and medications in case of an unexpected allergic reaction.
“I think that exposure to amounts of allergens to desensitize is a common treatment for allergies,” Mrs. Walsh said. “For example, there are allergy shots for seasonal allergies. Severe nut allergies are more complex and I think this needs more testing and research.”