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Peanut Allergies for Kids and Teens: What You Should Know

Addie and Peanut Allergy.jpg
Doug Doyle/Zoom
Allergist and Immunologist Dr. Mark Grijnsztein and Robyn Lao talk about how young Addie Lao is coping with peanut allergies and why she's doing well as she prepares for kindergarten

While caring for your baby, imagine you see her face turn bright red and a skin rash flare up, and hear her scream, but not know why?

This was the experience of Robyn Lao of California while she she was nursing her infant daughter Addie at the time.

"She broke out into a severe rash, so we underwent testing and found out she had multiple food allergies and peanut was the most severe. It was very anxiety-producing. I think still now we're always on high alert, checking food labels, making sure we have safe foods for her packed and making sure there's no cross contamination with food preparation even."

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More than 1.6 million children and teens in the U.S. are affected by peanut allergies

Peanut allergy is a condition that affects more than 1.6 million children and teens in the U.S.

Over the years, the Lao family had to carry an EpiPen and restrict social activities to avoid accidental exposure. The daily burden of living with a peanut allergy significantly impacted the entire family’s life, and with kindergarten inching closer, their anxiety only grew.

Dr. Mark Grijnsztein

In January 2020, Addie’s allergist Dr. Mark Grijnsztein recommended the first ever FDA-approved oral immunotherapy (OIT) for peanut allergy. OIT is a medical therapy that aims to desensitize the individual via the gradual introduction of increasing amounts of the allergenic protein of the problem food to reduce the risk of severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis.

The latest option for parents who have kids and teens with peanut allergies

Dr. Grijnsztein and Robyn Lao joined WBGO's Doug Doyle to talk about Addie's story and OIT. Dr. Grijnsztein says the approval of PALFORZIA was a big deal.

"The therapy now allows me to help these patients a little more proactively. Basically, it's an oral therapy that contains peanut protein. We bring the patients to our office and administer the peanut protein over a six-month period in a graded challenge orally. What we're trying to do there is have the allergic patient accept the allergin that cause them so much trouble. The final does is the equivalent about one and a half peanuts, which may not sound like a lot, but for parents like Robyn, it provides some extra security if their child is at a birthday party and accidentally bites into something with peanut. They can go out to restaurants now and not have to go through a 30-minute dissertation with the wait staff prior to ordering."

Today, Addie can tolerate the equivalent of up to one peanut kernel and is getting ready for kindergarten – with peace of mind that accidental exposure to peanut won’t result in potentially life-threatening allergic reactions. Robyn says her daughter has adjusted nicely.

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Addie and her mom have made her treatment a daily routine

"She has been fantastic with it. Basically, it has become our routine and we kind of made the appointments fun because they were very long appointments in the beginning. We definitely brought a lot of toys and things to distract her, but she's been doing great. She hasn't had any severe reaction, it's just become part of our daily routine."

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Doug Doyle/Zoom
Royn Lao is all smiles when talking about her daughter Addie

On the lighter side, Addie is a unicorn fanatic who enjoys baking allergy-free treats with her mom and making video of their adventures.

For more information about peanut allergies, to go to www.helpforpeanutallergies.com.

You can see the entire interview with Robyn Lao and Dr. Grijnsztein at https://fb.watch/5J7BXs3wMY/.

Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 200 awards from organizations like PRNDI, AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.