The Common Peanut - ©

New Treatment For Accidental Allergic Reactions

The threat of an unexpected allergic reaction looms over hundreds of thousands of people across the world. They’re allergic to specific foods or food groups. Now, a new treatment is available for deadly allergic attacks…

Xolair - © 2024 - Novartis

For the uninitiated…

The worst kind of allergic reaction is called anaphylactic shock. It massively, very quickly turns your body’s immune system, against you.

The Mayo Clinic describes the process in stark, unequivocal terms: “Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction. It can happen seconds or minutes after you’ve been exposed to something you’re allergic to. Peanuts or bee stings are examples. In anaphylaxis, the immune system releases a flood of chemicals that can cause the body to go into shock.

“Blood pressure drops suddenly, and the airways narrow, blocking your breathing. The pulse may be fast and weak, and you may have a skin rash. You may also get nauseous and vomit. Anaphylaxis needs to be treated right away with an injection of epinephrine. If it isn’t treated right away, it can be deadly.”

‘Epinephrine’ is the official long-form name of the powerful anti-allergy drug in ‘Eppy’ pens. Virtually every person who knows they’re in danger of anaphylaxis carries one.

Food a major player

Food allergies are major players in the anaphylaxis sphere. The Mao Clinic mentioned peanuts. But some folks are can suffer potentially deadly attacks after consuming any ‘tree nut’, fish or seafood, eggs, dairy products, chocolate, strawberries, red wine and any source of histamine. Certain food additives can also cause allergic reactions.

The main way to protect yourself from food allergies to avoid the foods (and associated substances) that trigger them. But that’s not necessarily as easy as it sounds. A high school friend of mine, Bob, had a severe allergy to fish and seafood. He claimed he would react, to some degree, just walking by a fish monger’s shop or a seafood restaurant. Especially if its cooking exhaust was ported out onto the street.

So… It’s really important to be aware of any food allergies your friends or extended family members might have. If you invite them over for dinner, you’re co-responsible with them to ensure they don’t ingest anything dangerous.

The new treatment

It’s called Xolair (omalizumab) injection. In that way, it’s similar to the standard epinephrine treatment. The difference is, it acts very quickly, while epinephrine takes minutes or longer to fully dial down the physiological effects of an attack. It also differs from ‘eppy’ in that you don’t use it as an emergency treatment. You take it before you go out to dinner, or put yourself in any situation where your allergen foe may await. So it goes to work for you immediately if you are exposed.

The official FDA announcement that Xolair had been approved for allergy control states, importantly, “Xolair is intended for repeated use to reduce the risk of allergic reactions and is not approved for the immediate emergency treatment of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.” The announcement uses specific language: “Xolair is the first FDA-approved medication to reduce allergic reactions to more than one type of food after accidental exposure.”

How it works

The FDA describes it’s action thus: “Xolair is a drug (in the class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies) that binds to immunoglobulin E (IgE), the antibody type that triggers allergic reactions, and blocks IgE from binding to its receptors. ”

Immunoglobulin E is naturally present in the body. But a severe allergic reaction triggers your immune system to dump huge amounts of it into your bloodstream all at once, causing shock. Xolair attaches itself to IgE and deactivates it.

Not a cure

The FDA also emphasizes Xolair is not a cure for allergic reactions. It’s just a preventative. You can take it ‘repeatedly’, but your sensitivity to your specific allergen is not reduced over time.

My take

What a great advance for folks susceptible to severe allergic reactions! They’ll never again have to go somewhere or do something worrying that they’ll be having a great time one minute, but fighting for their life the next…

~ Maggie J.