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Syracuse Girl Overcomes Peanut Allergy with Oral Immunotherapy

You might say it’s a miracle, but thanks to parents’ willingness to take a chance, many children in the Syracuse area are now peanut allergy free after being treated with oral immunotherapy. It took ten months of ingesting increasing amount of peanut powder plus careful monitoring for Katia Flavin to overcome her peanut allergy, but the effort was well worth it. She and her family strongly suggest that others give it a try and hope that other allergists will offer this treatment in the future.

Syracuse Girl Overcomes Peanut Allergy with Oral Immunotherapy

Katia Flavin Oral Immunotherapy 'Graduate'
Katia Flavin “graduates” from oral immunotherapy

By Suzanne Driscoll
July 15, 2019

When thirteen year old Katia Flavin had to buy cookies for a party recently, it was a new experience that she could choose anything on the shelf. Diagnosed with a peanut allergy at age two, Katia recently completed a ten month oral immunotherapy treatment (OIT) and is now completely allergy free. She does have to remember to eat at least eight peanuts a day to keep up her immunity but enjoys eating them in the form of peanut M&M’s.

Katia’s case was a little unusual in that her blood tested negative for a peanut allergy and on a scratch test, but when “orally challenged” at the doctor’s, she did have a severe reaction and needed epinephrine. Her doctors as well as her family hoped that she would outgrow it, but by age 12 she hadn’t. Dr. Juan Sotomayor and Dr. Ellen Schaeffer of Allergy & Asthma Diagnostic Office in Syracuse suggested she try oral immunotherapy, and even though she was their very first patient to try it, her mother Michele jumped at the chance.

“I did not want to have to worry about Katia the rest of her life, especially when she goes away to college,” Michele recalls. “This therapy has been used in Texas and Connecticut since 2005 and these kids haven’t relapsed, so I thought ‘Why not try it?’”

The treatment begins in the doctor’s office with the doctor mixing peanut powder with water to form a “Kool-Aid.” (You gradually work your way up until you eat peanut fragments and then full peanuts.) The first dosage is given to the child in ten steps, with increasing amounts of peanut powder. “At dose 5 Katia felt fine, but by dose 6 she thought maybe she was having a reaction, and at dose 7 her stomach hurt and her eyes felt itchy. So they sent us home with the dose 5.”

To help ease the child’s anxiety, the first treatment is usually done along with another patient. Katia and her mother were there with a boy who was a couple of years older along with his dad, and all had a great time playing cards and relaxing. “This is like doing shots!” the boy joked.

Every week they picked up a week’s supply of the “Kool-Aid.” Katia started out drinking one milliliter a day and carefully monitored herself for reactions. She had to be symptom free for seven days before the dose was increased, with the amount of peanut powder being decreased if there was a reaction or another illness. After ten months, Katia officially “graduated” from the program with a tasseled hat and a certificate.

When asked if it would be better to start oral immune therapy as a toddler, Michele explained that you carefully monitor your child for any reactions during the treatment. “An older child can tell you that she has a hive on her stomach or is feeling a little nauseous, where a child who can’t talk yet would not be able to.” Unfortunately, those in their late teens and early 20s are not having as much success with the therapy, but the Allergy & Asthma Diagnostic Office takes patients up to 17 years old for the therapy and has a 90% success rate.

“This experience has been life-changing for Katia,” her mother reports. “She’s excited and not as scared and loves that she doesn’t have to monitor what she eats.”

Michele gets upset that OIT treatments are not more widespread. “We had amazing results and a lot of allergists aren’t offering it. And unlike the peanut patch, the peanut powder is not a drug so the FDA does not have to get involved in approving it. I also like how OIT is more tailored to each individual patient.”

For more information, visit www.OIT101.org. The Website for the Allergy & Asthma Diagnostic Office is https://www.allergyaway.com/ where they announced a milk and tree nut oral immunotherapy is coming soon.

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