Here’s a bit of a throwback… the time I became a Children’s Hospital advocate, an avid nut-avoider, and a medical-savvy guinea pig.
Heading into my senior year of high school, I enrolled in a peanut study at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in my hometown. At the time, I didn’t even realize the incredible research facility that Children’s was and still is. My study was controlled by DBV Technologies, a French medical research company, and it had a total of 300 participants worldwide. Talk about a fun-fact!
The study required me to wear a new peanut protein patch every day with the hopes of building up a tolerance to peanuts. To me, it seemed like an incredibly cool concept. From talking with my allergists and learning their perspective, the experience couldn’t have been more unique. In my business terms, it was like I became their real-world internship. Just how I learn everything by the book, eventually practicing what you preach is the key and I played a role in allowing these doctors to do that!
My peanut patch study lasted for three years in length and I did see improvement with my progress! Unfortunately during phase 1 of the study and the first year, I was on the placebo side of the testing. For the following two years I gained tolerance for approximately 1/2 of a peanut before anaphylactic shock. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but you have to recall that I am not purposefully trying to eat peanuts. My goal is to avoid traces of nuts and in most cases, an accidental exposure will be less than 1/2 of a peanut. A success in my book!
One of my favorite (and least favorite) parts of the study was the yearly food challenges – one day of placebo and one day of peanut. Both days meant eating chocolate and orange-flavored pudding to test my reaction (ick!). Placebo days meant watching my favorite movies with the best caretakers around and celebrating with LaRosa’s after a long day of testing. Peanut days meant waiting for a visible reaction, peanut doses to stop, and treatment to be given. Every year, I had the privilege of learning what epinephrine actually does to my body. It’s honestly amazing that within minutes, my hives will subside, heart will race, stomach cramps will lessen, and breaths will deepen. It’s scary, but helpful to be reassured of the meds I carry with me!
While I was essentially kicked out of my study because my peanut tolerance level didn’t meet the study threshold, DBV Technologies has recently completed Phase III of this continued study. We may see a Viaskin Patch come to market soon! Since finishing my study, I always check allergy news website for any updates. Remember that we can all play a part in the positive things happening all around us!