New treatment helps children with peanut allergies

Sinclair Broadcast Group

Believe it or not, one in every 13 children has a food allergy. Some of the reactions can be deadly.

Laura Hussey tells us about a treatment that's making everyday life less dangerous for children with peanut allergies.

He looks like just another kid having a snack, but the walnuts Mason Topa is eating put him in the emergency room less than two years ago.

"I was really scared,” said Mason. “Because I thought I was going to die."

Growing up, Mason couldn't even be in the same room with nuts. His allergic reaction was so bad he couldn't breathe.

"You're just keeping him in a bubble. You are not helping him. You're just protecting him," said Amy Topa, mother.

Dr. Stephen Kimura and his team proposed a new treatment called oral immunotherapy, or OIT. Instead of avoiding nuts, Mason would slowly start eating them.

"To have a kid look at you in the eyes and say are you trying to kill me, it tugs at your heartstrings," said April Showalter, physician assistant.

The idea of the treatment was scary, but Kimura says it works.

"So it's sort of the same principle as what we do with allergy immunotherapy, with injections. We're desensitizing individuals to pollen or to mold spores or to animals, so they can tolerate small amounts in their everyday life," said Kimura.

Patients begin with tiny amounts of the nut protein dissolved in juice. The dose is slowly increased in the controlled office environment and later at home.

After two years, Mason now eats eight grams a day of peanuts, walnuts and pecans.

"I’m just really passionate about sharing our story, so that others can have the same peace of mind. Many don't even know that it exists," said Amy.

According to a new review published in the “the lancet”, the treatment’s “benefits and harms are unclear”.

But Kimura says while it’s not widely used, his office is seeing a 90-percent success rate. He advised you should not try this without being under a doctor’s care.

As for Mason's mom, she says she no longer feels she has to keep him in a bubble, and he's enjoying his new freedom.

"To eat anything I want," said Mason.