A skin patch can help children develop more tolerance to peanut, according to new research.
In a study involving over 350 children aged between four and 11, the children were asked to apply a specially designed patch, which contained either peanut or a placebo, to their skin every day for a year.
The research was conducted at Cork University Hospital and Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, and 29 other centres across North America, Germany, and Australia.
Although not all children wearing the patch developed a tolerance for peanut, researchers said some were able to tolerate more peanut than before the study started.
Dr Aideen Byrne, principle investigator at the National Clinical Research Centre (NCRC) in Crumlin explained: “The children in the study would apply a single patch to their skin every day. Each patch was for a day. They put it on their back and removed and put another one the next day, and so on, for a whole year.”
Around 20,000 children and adults in Ireland have nut allergies. One in 20 toddlers now have a food allergy, with the most common being an egg allergy, then a milk allergy, and then a peanut allergy. Over 80pc of peanut allergies found in young toddlers persist through life.
“Peanut allergy is the most common persistent food allergy and has a huge impact on the lives of affected children and their families.”
“The benefit of this skin patch (epicutaneous) treatment is that it is safe and well tolerated. It’s easy to do. Adherence was 98.5pc so it was right across the board.”
In this phase of the study, which will continue for two more years, 35pc of the children developed a better tolerance to peanuts. Researchers expect this percentage to rise as the study continues.
The goal of the study is to help build the childrens’ tolerances to peanut, so that they will be safer in contexts like restaurants.
“Our kids are relatively safe in schools and planes, the place we really worry about them is when they’re out eating. Genuine mistakes and contamination (of nut into other foods) can happen. It reduces their risks and improves their quality of life. That is our goal, to make their lives as easy as possible.”
Dr Byrne added: “We don’t fully understand why we’re seeing such an increase in allergic children and as a result we don’t have a very clear preventative mechanism. However, we do know that introducing allergic foods as early as possible into the diet is particularly helpful.”