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Peanut-Allergic Patients Need Emergency Plan

Potential new treatments show promise for growing health problem

FRIDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- Peanut allergy is a growing problem, particularly in developed countries, and all patients with peanut allergy need immediate access to epinephrine and antihistamines as well as an emergency management plan, according to a seminar published in the May 3 issue of The Lancet.

A. Wesley Burks, M.D., of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., writes that education of patients and their families to recognize the early signs of allergic reaction to peanuts is essential, as is ensuring that they have epinephrine and antihistamines available at all times and know how and when to administer them. Severe and potentially severe reactions require hospital admission for observation for up to four hours due to the risk of late-phase allergic response, the author writes.

The article points out that hope for peanut-allergic patients lies in two areas: the development of transgenic plants that produce hypoallergenic peanuts, and novel immunotherapy treatments, for which a number of studies are under way.

"These studies offer the possibility of at least raising the threshold of the amount of peanut that it would take to cause a life-threatening allergic reaction; whether these types of treatments are likely to cause eventual clinical tolerance to develop remains to be seen," the author writes. "It is likely that in the next five years there will be some type of immunotherapy available for peanut allergic individuals."

Burks has disclosed financial ties to various nutrition and therapeutics companies.

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