Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.

A Northwest Project To Curb Allergies, One Peanut At A Time

KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

David Baty remembers the first time he gave his son Spencer, 10, some peanuts.

“He was around three,” Baty, of Seattle, said. “I tried to introduce new foods and he started to turn red, he was enjoying them.”

The Baty family takes every precaution to make sure that Spencer doesn’t eat foods with peanuts. They keep EpiPens nearby, just in case. And at school, Spencer eats lunch at a small, peanut-free table. He said it can get pretty lonely.

“You can only invite two friends over because it’s one little table,” he said.

Spencer’s allergy to peanuts could soon diminish. He is part of a national study looking at a new treatment.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Ten-year old Spencer Baty is part of a national trial to study new treatments for food allergies.", "fid": "37265", "style": "card_280", "uri": "public://201405/SpencerBaty_0.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna"}]]

One in 13 kids today has a food allergy, and sometimes those reactions can be fatal.

As part of the trial treatment, Spencer wears a skin patch that contains a small amount of peanut protein. The patch is changed daily. 

Dr. David Naimi, an allergy specialist, said the goal is to desensitize Spencer to peanuts. He said a year ago Spencer reacted to one peanut – sometimes even less.

“Some kids with peanut allergy can react to very small amounts of peanut,” Naimi said. “The goal now is that his threshold for reaction is significantly higher a year later.”

The study is the first effort by the Seattle Food Allergy Consortium, a new collaboration between the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Virginia Mason and Northwest Asthma and Allergy Center.

Dr. Stephen Tilles, the study’s lead investigator, said not much has changed in treatment of food allergies.

“Food allergy has at least tripled in its prevalence in the past several decades,” Tilles said. “We currently have no other treatments available other than avoidance and having injectable epinephrine.”

Tilles said the consortium seeks to marshal the scientific and medical expertise in the region to finding better solutions for food allergies.

Spencer has been on the skin patch study for a year now. He said he hopes the study can improve his tolerance to peanuts. On Wednesday, Spencer will find out whether his reaction to peanuts has changed.

“If it actually works, and I can actually eat peanuts,” Spencer said. “And even if I can’t, I’ll still be glad if it just makes my reaction not quite as bad.”

Year started with KUOW: 1994