Beating peanut allergies with peanuts? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Beating peanut allergies with peanuts?

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Three peanut M&Ms-- it's a small serving, but a year ago, even one of these could have been deadly for 6-year-old Nick Bilow.

"See, the thing is, before, I would have an allergic reaction," Nick explained.

Now, he eats them every day as part of a program that has changed his life. Before, exposure to peanuts would have left him unable to breathe.

"I first was very scared of what to feed him," mom Tammy Ellis said. "I didn't know what to feed him."

Until he was 5, the house was a peanut-free zone and his parents chose a school close to a hospital just in case. Then his allergist told them about a program that would desensitize Nick to peanuts by eating peanuts.

"They no longer have to be worried about eating a food that's contaminated with peanut. So, the three peanut M&Ms a day is well above the amount that would typically get into a food inadvertently," said Dr. Edward Kent, Nick's allergist.

Before he started the program, a pinch of peanut flour would have been enough to send Nick to the hospital. Now though, things are different.

But the change didn't happen overnight.

"They started out with 1 milligram and gave him an IV in his arm so that if he were to have a reaction they could act quickly on it," Ellis said.

The family went to the New England Food Allergy Treatment Center in Connecticut every other weekend. Nick would get a slightly higher dosage each time that he would take each day. Six months later, he graduated with the three peanut M&Ms.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: If he ate three peanut M&Ms, you know, before he started all this, what would your reaction have been?

Tammy Ellis: Send him right to the hospital.

Cat Viglienzoni: And now?

Tammy Ellis: It's an everyday thing, it's just normal for us... He eats it and then he still has to stay calm for two hours.

Nick's allergist cautions that this isn't a fix, and the cost-- at around $5,000-- may not be worth it for patients with multiple allergies.

"It isn't cured. If they stop with the program, they're likely to go right back to being allergic again," Kent said.

But now Nick can sit with his friends at lunch and eat treats that his classmates bring in for their birthdays. Someday, he wants to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. His mother isn't quite ready to go that far yet. But both of them say they'd recommend the program to other families.

"I say spread it around the world," Nick said. "Every kid he meets who has a peanut allergy, let's do it!"

Tammy Ellis says blood tests have confirmed the program worked for Nick. She says any family with questions can contact her to ask about it -- ellistm@plattsburgh.edu

And for more on the program -- New England Food Allergy Treatment Center -- www.nefoodallergy.org/

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