Skin Patch May Help Kids with Peanut Allergies

The wearable patch trains the immune system to tolerate peanut protein in small doses over time and shows promise among children, according to a recent study.

It’s estimated that 3.2 million Americans are allergic to peanuts. Many of them are children with mild to severe allergic reactions to peanuts and foods containing peanut protein. As one of the most serious food allergies, parents whose kids are affected are often on high alert, concerned about the safety of their child who may accidently come into contact with, or worse, consume peanuts.

But now, a new study published by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has found that a wearable skin patch is enabling some allergy suffers to consume 10 times more peanut protein than before. Though not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Viaskin Peanut patch has shown promise as an epicutaneous immunotherapy. The wearable patch delivers minute amounts of peanut protein through the skin to help train the immune system to tolerate peanut protein.

According to one-year results from an ongoing clinical trial, 4- to 11-year-olds responded the best to the skin patch therapy. It had less of an effect on those 12 and older. The small daily patch has to be replaced every 24 hours. No serious reactions were reported, though many had mild skin reactions where the patch was placed.

With so many foods containing peanuts or produced in factories that have processed peanut-containing goods, this patch could help provide peace of mind for worried parents. Allergic reactions to peanuts can range from mild symptoms such as stomachache, itchy eyes, and a runny nose, to life-threatening anaphylaxis. 

The findings of this recent study are an important step toward a less stressful and scary future for children with peanut allergies and their parents. More studies with larger groups of children are needed before this therapy could be approved for wider use.