Allergic to peanuts? Here, have some
Last spring, my high school baseball team traveled to Florida to visit Astros spring training. Lunchtime was approaching, and I learned we would be having PB&Js. I am allergic to peanuts, a condition that is often inconvenient and can be life threatening. Fortunately, after I explained my situation to them, they were able to serve almond butter instead.
For my whole life I have had to be vigilant about the ingredients in every bite of food I eat. So a month after my Florida trip, when presented with the idea of treating my allergy, I was excited. But my head was filled with “what if.” I had been invited to screen for an immunotherapy trial at Texas Children’s Hospital. But what if I don’t qualify for the trial? What if I have a severe reaction? What if the trial doesn’t work?
The trial is designed to increase tolerance to peanuts through consumption of small but increasing amounts of peanut protein. To qualify, I had to demonstrate my allergy by having a reaction. Sitting in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV prepared to administer life-saving medicine, I opened a cup of pudding and mixed in the prescribed dose of peanut flour. I ate the pudding mixture and then had a terrible reaction. Though terrifying, that reaction qualified me for the trial and began my yearlong journey.
My participation generally involves eating peanut flour mixed into pudding every morning and going to Texas Children’s for bi-weekly “updose” appointments. At every updose, the amount of peanut flour I am given goes up and I am monitored for two hours for changes in my condition. At home, I cannot exercise or do anything where I might get overheated for 90 minutes after taking my dose.
While I may never eat pudding again after this year, participation in the trial will impact the rest of my life. If the treatment is successful, I will shift from avoiding peanuts to having to eat peanuts every day to maintain my tolerance. Being able to eat without anxiety at restaurants and parties, travel to places without needing a hospital nearby, and live an ordinary life will make the trial well worth the effort.
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