New medical test offers hope for those allergic to peanuts -

Test helps with food allergies

One of the most severe and fastest growing food allergies in America involves peanuts. They're hard to avoid, because peanuts are found in a number of food products. 

Allergic responses can be relatively mild with only a runny nose, or more severe, requiring a trip to the emergency room.

If a person tests positive for a peanut allergy, it can mean a total lifestyle change. A peanut allergy can be especially difficult for children.

New technology, however, is changing everything allergists once thought about peanuts. And it's changing people's lives.

Whether crunchy or smooth, peanut butter's reputation has been smeared for the millions who have tested positive for a peanut allergy.

When they think about consuming peanut-based products, they immediately think of the possible allergic reactions which include hives, diarrhea, vomiting, or in the most severe cases, death.

After years of avoiding peanuts, a new test may be able to bring this food option back to your plate again.

"I've seen a lot of smiles," says Dr. Maeve O'Connor with Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center. "We've had cheering. We've had crying -- tears of actual happiness from parents saying 'Oh my gosh I don't have to worry anymore!'"

When Stacy Phillips' son, Brennan, was an infant, he tested positive for a peanut allergy among other things.

As a result, she immediately eliminated every trace of peanut products from the entire family's consumption until Brennan's allergists suggested a second, more specific test.

"We're taking it down to the molecular level," Dr. O'Connor said, referring to the new test.

Allergens are what causes allergic reactions, and they're made up of building blocks from the entire peanut.

Current allergy tests look at the body's reaction to the whole peanut.

The new test, however, separates the components of a peanut and pin-points specific allergens to which someone is allergic.

As it turns out, not all of them cause a severe reaction despite a positive result.

Some peanut allergens allow people to snack without suffering.

"I'm thinking, 'Hallelujah! We don't have to avoid peanuts and peanut butter anymore,'" says Phillips.

The simple blood test, however, doesn't necessarily mean a person who thought they were allergic to peanuts will suddenly be able to consume them.

For Brennan, it did open up the opportunity for an oral challenge or a kind of peanut tolerability taste test with his allergist which told them the likelihood of a safe reaction, thereby reducing his risk of developing an emergency allergic reaction.

"It was truly peace of mind and not having to worry so much," Phillips says.

Now, the Phillips have shifted from a diet completely absent of peanuts to eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on a regular basis. 

If you were previously diagnosed with an allergy to certain foods, consult with your allergist about the newest allergy testing technology. You may discover you can consume a particular food you've been avoiding for years! 

Additional Information:

  • The uKnow Peanut Test was developed by Phadia, a global allergy and autoimmune disease related diagnostics company. Click for details about the allergy test.
  • In May 2011, the uKnow Peanut Test received FDA approval. However, not all insurance companies will pay the cost for the test which is about $300.
  • The protein Ara h 2 is believed to be the culprit in provoking anaphylaxis. Click to read more.  
  • Some allergens mimic others and can cause an incorrect diagnosis. Click to read more.  
  • You can learn more about uKnow Peanut Test by calling 1-800-346-4364.
  • Some of the common allergic symptoms to peanuts includes hives, swelling, itchy mouth, diarrhea, cramps, vomiting, tight chest, wheezing, and runny nose. Click to read more.
  • A peanut allergy is one of the most common causes of anaphylaxis, an emergency allergic response. Symptoms include: constriction of airways, throat swelling, severe drop in blood pressure, rapid pulse, and dizziness. Click to read more.  
  • Less obvious foods that may contain peanuts and/or peanut proteins include nougat, salad dressing, chocolate candies, nut butters, sunflower seeds, cultural foods (i.e. Thai dishes), bakery and ice cream shop items.
  • Click to read more about allergy statistics.
  • More than 3 million people in the United States report being allergic to peanuts, tree nuts or both.
  • Peanut allergy affects 1.2 percent of children. Approximately 20 percent of children outgrow their peanut allergy by the age of 7.
  • The number of peanut allergies diagnosed in children doubled from 1997 to 2002.
  • Most peanut allergic patients can safely eat other legumes such as soy or beans (95%), but they can have concurrent allergy to tree nuts such as walnuts or pecans (25 to 50%).
  • Skin contact and inhalation exposure to peanut butter are unlikely to cause systemic reactions or anaphylaxis.
  • Peanut allergy is one of the most common causes of death due to food allergies. Click to read more.  

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