Boiled Peanuts for Peanut Allergy
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
Are boiled peanuts the answer to the peanut problem?
When my son was 6 months old, we introduced peanut butter and Bombas on time as we were told. We did everything right, but yet he reacted to it. He had eczema, but our pediatrician didn’t consider it severe. Yet, there was this IgE mediated allergic reaction. So now what? Again, avoiding peanuts forever didn’t sit right with me.
When we went to the allergist he immediately did a skin prick test for peanut, which was positive. Subsequently we had multiple skin prick tests for peanut we well. Every single one was positive and the response was growing during each, to the point at our most recent skin prick test where he had a what is called a satellite reaction. My 6 month old son had a discovered peanut allergy based on skin prick test (SPT), serum-specific IgE (ssIgE) to peanut, and positive component test indicative of a very strong likelihood of clinical reaction during a challenge. Not to mention a reaction to Bomba and peanut butter. We felt hopeless, how could this be? And how did it appear to be getting worse? My first thought was that we were sensitizing him to peanut by avoiding it! How could this be the solution? To me, it felt like the cause, or at the very least a harm. Did the risk of a reaction to peanut outweigh the possibility of trying it again? I found myself asking this over and over again.
I read everything I could about peanut allergy, and I stumbled onto some theoretical articles about boiling and frying peanuts and how this could potentially help how allergic the peanut was. Interestingly, the prevalence of peanut allergy in China is much lower than that in the United States, despite a high rate of peanut consumption in China. In China, peanuts are commonly fried or boiled, whereas in the United States peanuts are typically dry roasted. In addition, there was significantly less IgE binding to specific peanut components in fried and boiled peanuts compared with that in roasted peanuts, even though the protein amounts were similar in all 3 preparations.
I mean it was a long shot, but why not try this? Why had nobody mentioned this to me!? What did we have to lose? Luckily, our allergist agreed and we went to our allergists office for a boiled peanut challenge. However, when we got there they did a SPT prior to the challenge for both boiled peanut and raw peanut (which is what they had been doing previously as what most SPTs are). Our son was now out of the range for what was considered safe for a challenge with the raw peanut and also positive for the boiled peanut, but to a lesser degree. We were understandably sent home out of fear of a failed food challenge. Again, this didn't sit well with us. This skin test appeared to show that we could be right, the reaction to the boiled peanut WAS less, at least on the SPT.
After a few weeks more of reading more about boiled peanuts we pushed to try again worried that our son was going to have his allergy "cemented". Unfortunately, our allergist was out of town so we decided to try discussing this with the local children’s hospital. The Children’s hospital didn’t believe our theoretical, non-evidence based approach, but offered us a challenge for peanut butter instead, offering that there would likely be a reaction but it would be in a hospital setting. Taking more comfort in the hospital setting we decided to go, but I kept reading. It appeared to us that the order of allergenticity went boiled, raw, and then roasted. After realizing his satellite reaction was to raw peanut, I was horrified to even consider roasted peanut butter for challenge. We decided to bring our homemade boiled peanut butter to challenge it instead, and hope they’d allow it to be used. Fortunately, although they recommended against it, they allowed us to proceed.
Nobody thought we would, but we PASSED. Our son got 2 hives on the second dose of boiled peanuts, but we pushed through it and he passed! My son has continued to eat (increasing amounts of and now 2 teaspoons of) boiled peanut butter every single day. We plan on introducing peanut butter under the supervision of our allergist for a challenge after COVID passes, but for now I’m still in shock that he’s eating peanuts at all, and if it wasn't for boiling them, I'm not sure he would be. I still have a fear that when we are ready to progress to peanut butter that we will have an anaphylactic reaction, but what if eating boiled peanuts every single day, and the introduction of those proteins allows him to one day eat peanuts? What if unlike OIT, he won’t need to eat them every day because his immature immune system got used to them through a form he could tolerate? Maybe it will work, and for now that’s good enough for me. Maybe, just maybe, it will work for you too.
When we challenge roasted peanuts in a few months I will be sure to let everyone know how it goes. Until then, I write this to give hope to those newly diagnosed with a peanut allergy. Please don’t try it at home, please don’t try it without your doctor's permission. But if you want to try it consider that it could possibly help, ask! What are you waiting for?
Read more about boiled peanuts for treating a peanut allergy here: