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Allergies Health Center

Treating Allergies With Allergic Food

Pilot Study Offers Hope Food Allergy Sufferers Can Build Tolerance
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Tolerating Eggs continued...

None of the children had experienced a previous life-threatening allergic (or anaphylactic) reaction, but their parents received the emergency treatment epinephrine to keep on hand as a precaution.

Previous attempts to immunize against food allergies by giving shots containing allergens have been unsuccessful.

So the researchers gave the egg orally, in the form of powdered egg mixed in food.

The first dose was the equivalent of less than one-thousandth of an egg, followed by very small increases given in a clinic in order to determine each child's tolerance.

Then dosages were gradually increased to a maintenance treatment of about one-tenth of an egg daily, which the children continued to receive for the length of the study.

Over time, the children showed an increase in tolerance to eggs and a decrease in the severity of their allergic reactions, Burks says.

At the end of the two-year study, most of the children could tolerate two scrambled eggs with no adverse reactions.

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.

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