This article was originally published by USA Today and has since been syndicated to other media outlets.

There’s nothing more frightening than a child rushed to the emergency room for an allergic reaction to peanuts. A new study outlines a simple patch that may help avoid that.

The study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine shows the patch – called Viaskin Peanut – may increase peanut tolerance in young children with peanut allergies, reducing the risk of a severe allergic reaction if they accidentally ate peanuts.

Research estimates about 2.2% of children in the United States have a peanut allergy.

“Peanuts are everywhere – in schools, in daycare, in parties – and parents are always hypervigilant,” said Dr. Weily Soong, chief research innovation officer at AllerVie Health, a national network of allergy clinics.

The patch “has the possibility of saving a child’s life,” added Soong, who is unaffiliated with the study.

What the study found

Phase 3 trial data showed the patch desensitized young kids to peanuts after 12 months of daily use.

The patch, developed by French biopharmaceutical company DBV Technologies, introduces 250 micrograms of peanut protein, or about 1/1000th of a peanut, to re-educate the immune system to increase its tolerance to allergens.

Of more than 300 children aged 1 to 4, researchers found 67% of those who received the patch were able to increase their tolerance versus about 33% of kids in the placebo group.

“We are thrilled,” said Daniel Tassé, DBV Technologies chief executive officer. “The (study) data represent a next step toward a future with more (approved) treatments for food allergies.”

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It’s unclear when the patch will be available to patients in the U.S. DBV Technologies did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request to comment. 

Side effects and adverse events

Researchers mostly reported mild skin symptoms like redness, itchiness and swelling.

But serious side effects, such as a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, did occur in 26 kids who wore the patch and three in the placebo group.

Why the study is important

The data is the first peanut allergy study of its kind in children this young, Soong said.

The only immunotherapy for peanut allergies on the U.S. market, Palforzia, is a daily powder taken by mouth and only approved for children ages 4 to 17. The hope is that introducing immunotherapy at a younger age may lead to longer-term tolerance, Soong said, but more research is needed.

Plus, parents can’t beat the convenience of the patch instead of negotiating snacks with a toddler.

“You can actually put a patch on a toddler and it gives the families peace of mind that if they accidentally eat something, the child isn’t going to go into anaphylaxis,” Soong said. “You’re able to intervene what the child is eating before they consume more peanuts.”

Symptoms of a peanut allergy in children

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says symptoms of a peanut allergy may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Repetitive cough
  • Tightness in throat, hoarse voice
  • Weak pulse
  • Pale or blue coloring of the skin
  • Hives and swelling
  • Dizziness or confusion