Joshua Mandelbaum, 8, has a peanut allergy. It's so severe that if he touches peanuts he could die.
"His throat has swelled, his body has swelled, he has had hives from head to toe," mom Lianne said.
To try to reduce his allergy, Joshua's mother enrolled him in a study that's testing a new patch containing peanut protein. Joshua has to wear it every day for at least the next 2.5 years. Researchers want to know if repeated exposure to peanuts can actually desensitize children.
"This protein gets into the outer layer of the skin, is taken up by specialized cells that then take it to the inner parts of the immune system," explained Dr. Hugh Sampson of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Sampson says the study is being conducted at 24 centers worldwide. He says the initial goal is for children to build a resistance.
"Trying to get them to tolerate 5 grams of peanut protein which would be the equivalent of eating 20 peanuts," Sampson said.
Doctors say oral therapies are effective, but can come with side effects. Researchers hope going through the skin will mean fewer problems.
Patients in the study don't know if they have a peanut patch or a placebo patch. The Mandelbaums think Joshua is getting the protein because he gets a little itchy at times, but he says it's worth it.
"It could save my life one day," Joshua said.
And his mom says it would be life-altering to stop worrying all the time.
Close to three million Americans suffer from some sort of nut allergy.
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