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Treating Allergies With Allergic Food

Pilot Study Offers Hope Food Allergy Sufferers Can Build Tolerance

12 Million Allergic Americans

As many as 12 million Americans have food allergies, says Ann Munoz-Furlong, chief executive officer and founder of The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. Roughly 8% of children under the age of 3 are allergic to some food, she says.

Most children outgrow their food allergies, but there is currently no way to tell which ones will and which ones won't, she tells WebMD.

"That is just one of the things we don't know," she says. "We don't know why one twin might have a food allergy while the other doesn't; and we can't predict who will have [life-threatening] anaphylactic reactions."

Munoz-Furlong says the food challenge seems to be succeeding where shots failed in desensitizing the body to allergic foods.

"This is by far the most exciting research we have seen for food allergies, and we will continue watching it very carefully," she says. "It is a fairly low-tech approach that looks promising."

Until better treatments are available, Munoz-Furlong says everyone needs to be sensitive to the impact of food allergies, even if they are not personally touched by them.

She adds that the holidays can be an especially difficult time for food allergy sufferers and their families because problem foods are often hidden in baked goods or other party foods.

Just a few foods are involved in nine out of 10 allergic reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy.

"If you don't have a food allergy, be mindful that someone you know might," Munoz-Furlong says.

"Crushed nuts in a piecrust might be difficult to spot, and it could cause a reaction," she says. "Make sure to let people know."

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