Allergy/Asthma Information Association

"Growing Out" of Peanut Allergy: Our Family's Experience

by Nancy Wiebe, AAIA Volunteer

During Thanksgiving dinner in 1995 our daughter Laura, age one, dove into her dinner with gusto, polishing off a turkey leg and her father's bun. When dessert arrived, she took a peanut butter cookie, put it to her lips and threw it back onto the plate. We were puzzled by her reaction but figured that she was finally full.

A few hours later after being put to bed, she woke up screaming. We found her covered from head-to-toe with hives and swollen up like a balloon. That event ten years ago was our introduction to peanut allergy.

Her peanut skin test showed quite a significant reaction. The allergist told us that she had a life-threatening peanut allergy and gave us a prescription for an EpiPen®. We received no information at all about peanut allergy, what an EpiPen® was, or instructions on how to give it. It took me quite a while in that pre-Internet era to find any information about severe allergies. Eventually we found the basics and carried on as best we could.

Laura was very responsible about following her food rules as she grew up. During the next ten years she only had one mild skin reaction. However we were aware that when she was seven she accidentally ate a peanut butter chocolate and had no reaction at all. Although the incident was upsetting, it made us wonder how allergic she was or if she was allergic at all. We had her re-tested and her skin test was still 4+. So we continued on with our peanut avoidance strategies.

The following year I'd heard through AAIA about research being conducted to determine if some children outgrew their peanut allergy. I read that preliminary results indicated that skin test reactions may not always be a good predictor of clinical reactions. We wanted her to have a peanut challenge but her allergist was not comfortable with this option. We respected that, but we eventually decided to pursue it anyway.

We contacted Dr. Antony Ham Pong of Ottawa to see if he would take her into his research study. His extensive research before starting his study gave us confidence that he would take a conservative approach. He studied Laura's history and arranged for a UNICAP blood test. The acceptable blood test results allowed us to proceed to a peanut challenge. In November 2004, Laura passed the challenge with flying colors, much to our delight.

Now Laura must eat peanuts regularly to maintain her "allergy-free" status. She's had no problems at all since then. Is this a permanent change? We hope so, but we don't know for sure. Ten years ago we never dreamed this was possible. Who knows what the next decade will bring?

Please continue to support AAIA and allergy research - we will all benefit.

Editor's note: Nancy Wiebe is the Web Master of the Calgary Allergy Network Web site and the soon-to-be-retired AAIA Web Master. We are delighted that Laura seems to have outgrown her peanut allergy but we know that Nancy's interest in allergy will continue as there are many other allergies in the family, as is so often the case! Thanks Nancy for the many hours that you have devoted to the cause. Your Web site work has brought you many friends around the world and we are all indebted to you for your technical skills and your good judgment.

from Allergy & Asthma News, Issue 4 2005

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