6 Tips from a Caregiver of a Child with Peanut Allergy: How to Handle Travel, Camp, Sports, Birthdays and Other Moments That Matter
(BPT) - While many of us may know someone living with peanut allergy, what most of us may not know is how much it can impact daily life and key moments that we often take for granted. Peanut allergy can be a lifelong condition, and reactions to peanut can range from mild to potentially life-threatening. Some children with peanut allergy may not want to participate in certain activities due to the potential of accidental exposure.
Kirsten and her family have lived with peanut allergy for 13 years since her son Maddox was first diagnosed and have had to learn to navigate events such as birthdays, traveling and even family holidays to avoid accidental exposure to peanut. This has required constant vigilance daily as practicing a strict peanut-free diet alone might not be enough, since even a small amount of the allergen can prompt an allergic reaction. Maddox is currently taking PALFORZIA® [Peanut (Arachis hypogaea) Allergen Powder-dnfp]. PALFORZIA is a treatment for people who are allergic to peanuts that can help reduce the severity of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, that may occur with accidental exposure to peanut. PALFORZIA can cause severe allergic reactions called anaphylaxis, please see below for important safety information.
However, despite his peanut allergy, Kirsten has been committed to making sure that Maddox and their family can still enjoy doing the things they love. Below, she shares six proactive tips for caregivers of children with a peanut allergy to consider.
Kirsten and her family have visited many places — they make sure to carry injectable epinephrine and ask everyone they are traveling with not to bring any food containing peanut. If traveling by plane, train or bus, contact the company to find out their peanut allergy protocol and board early to wipe down your child’s seat, seatbelt, tray table, and controls. If traveling to a foreign country, Kirsten has found it helpful to learn how to say “peanut allergy” in the country’s language or to bring laminated cards to hand to waiters with peanut warnings in the country’s language.
2. Summer camp
It is important to inform the camp staff before camp begins about your child’s allergy and the potential for allergic reactions. If it feels necessary, you can hold a call with the camp personnel to discuss your concerns and share an emergency action plan that includes your allergist’s contact details, epinephrine, and a recent picture of your child so people who are unfamiliar with your child know what they look like. Kirsten expressed how important it is for children to be able to recognize the symptoms of an allergic reaction and understand how to advocate for themselves. You should discourage your child from sharing foods, encourage them to read every label and be sure they know which snacks they can’t have. If the camp does not give out name tags where you could include a warning about your child’s peanut allergy, make sure they are wearing a medical alert bracelet or necklace. Lastly, make sure your child or your child’s counselor carries injectable epinephrine in case of an emergency.
At Maddox’s sporting events, Kirsten always comes prepared with plenty of snacks for during and after the game. Kirsten has found it helpful to have their coaches send an email home to all parents before practice starts asking them to please not share any food with the team that she has not approved of first. Since Maddox plays baseball, peanuts, a staple at ballparks, can be a big issue. Because of this, Kirsten is constantly reminding the coaches and other parents throughout the season of Maddox’s peanut allergy and stays close during halftime and post-game activities to monitor any snacks being passed around. She shares that sunflower seeds have served as a great alternative to peanuts, and they are always sure to bring extra in case anyone forgets and brings peanuts.
4. Birthday parties
Since birthday parties are common events in children’s lives, the risk of accidental exposure for children with peanut allergy at these events is clearly present. As a little boy, Maddox would go to birthday parties but wasn’t allowed to eat the cake — or anything for that matter. Kirsten would go with him to the parties and bring foods he could eat — typically cake or something fun so he did not feel left out. Kirsten typically calls the host beforehand to find out what they are serving. She also notes that you must always carry injectable epinephrine with you just in case.
Holiday gatherings are an important time for many families to be with loved ones. Prior to parties, Kirsten calls the host to find out what kind of food they are serving. If you are able, ask the host to take pictures of/keep the food labels so you can read the ingredients. If the holiday dinner is buffet style, Kirsten makes sure Maddox can be served first to limit cross contact. Kirsten usually gives Maddox a snack or meal before the event so that he is not tempted to grab appetizers that may contain peanut. As she does with birthday parties, Kirsten will also bring a peanut-free dish or dessert so Maddox has something to look forward to that he knows he can eat. These proactive tips for holiday dinners also hold true for any large gathering such as summer barbecues and picnics.
6. Peanut Oral Immunotherapy (OIT)
No matter how hard families try to remain vigilant, accidental exposure to peanut can still occur. Kirsten wanted to do something proactive to help manage Maddox’s peanut allergy in addition to avoidance alone. When she heard about an FDA-approved treatment that could potentially be an option for her son, she was eager to learn more and find out if it could be a fit. PALFORZIA is the first and only FDA-approved OIT that is intended to gradually decrease sensitivity to small amounts of peanuts that may be hidden in foods. PALFORZIA does NOT treat allergic reactions and should not be given during an allergic reaction. You must maintain a strict peanut-free diet while taking PALFORZIA. Peanut OIT is an approach that can help reduce the severity of allergic reactions by introducing small daily doses of an allergen into an individual’s diet to gradually build up to larger amounts over time. While Maddox must continue to avoid peanut and carry injectable epinephrine, Kirsten is grateful for PALFORZIA because it can help reduce the severity of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, that may occur if Maddox was accidentally exposed to peanut.
WHAT IS PALFORZIA?
PALFORZIA is a treatment for people who are allergic to peanuts. PALFORZIA can help reduce the severity of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, that may occur with accidental exposure to peanut. PALFORZIA may be started in patients aged 4 through 17 years old. If you turn 18 years of age while on PALFORZIA treatment you should continue taking PALFORZIA unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.
PALFORZIA does NOT treat allergic reactions and should not be given during an allergic reaction.
You must maintain a strict peanut-free diet while taking PALFORZIA.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
PALFORZIA can cause severe allergic reactions called anaphylaxis that may be life-threatening.
- You will receive your first dose in a healthcare setting under the observation of trained healthcare staff.
- You will receive the first dose of all dose increases in a healthcare setting.
- In the healthcare setting, you will be observed for at least 1 hour for signs and symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.
- If you have a severe reaction during treatment, you will need to receive an injection of epinephrine immediately and get emergency medical help right away.
- You will return to the healthcare setting for any trouble tolerating your home doses.
Stop taking PALFORZIA and get emergency medical treatment right away if you have any of the following symptoms after taking PALFORZIA:
- Trouble breathing or wheezing
- Chest discomfort or tightness
- Throat tightness
- Trouble swallowing or speaking
- Swelling of your face, lips, eyes, or tongue
- Dizziness or fainting
- Severe stomach cramps or pain, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Hives (itchy, raised bumps on skin)
- Severe flushing of the skin
Because of the risk of severe allergic reactions, PALFORZIA is only available through a restricted program called the PALFORZIA Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) Program. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information about the PALFORZIA REMS program and how to enroll.
You should NOT take PALFORZIA if you have uncontrolled asthma, or if you ever had eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) or other eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease.
Tell your doctor if you are not feeling well prior to starting treatment with PALFORZIA. Your doctor may decide to delay treatment until you are feeling better. Also tell your doctor about any medical conditions you have and if you are taking or have recently taken any other medicines, including medicines obtained without a prescription and herbal supplements.
Your doctor may decide that PALFORZIA is not the best treatment if:
You are unwilling or unable to receive (or self-administer) injectable epinephrine.
You have a condition or are taking a medication that reduces the ability to survive a severe allergic reaction.
What are the possible side effects of PALFORZIA?
The most commonly reported side effects of PALFORZIA were: stomach pain, vomiting, feeling sick, itching or burning in the mouth, throat irritation, cough, runny nose, sneezing, throat tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath, itchy skin, hives, and/or itchy ears.
PALFORZIA can cause severe allergic reactions called anaphylaxis that may be life-threatening.
PALFORZIA can cause stomach or gut symptoms including inflammation of the esophagus (called eosinophilic esophagitis). Symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis can include:
- Trouble swallowing
- Food stuck in throat
- Burning in chest, mouth, or throat
- Regurgitation of undigested food
- Feeling sick
For additional information on the possible side effects of PALFORZIA, talk with your doctor or pharmacist or visit https://www.palforzia.com/.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
2022 Aimmune Therapeutics, Inc. PALFORZIA is a registered trademark of Aimmune Therapeutics, Inc.