New medical technique helps kids with food allergies
Updated On: Dec 31 2012 05:43:53 PM EST
It's estimated one out of every eight children in the U.S. has a food allergy.
The only way to protect kids is to help them avoid the foods that make them sick.
Complete avoidance is often impossible, so doctors are trying a new approach by carefully having some children consume the very foods they're allergic to.
Alex Pritchard was diagnosed with severe food allergies that included eggs.
"It's in everything. Everything from flu-shots to meatballs, because you use egg as a binder when you cook," said Tammy Pritchard, Alex's mother.
Her son spent most of his life avoiding a wide range of foods.
But now, eggs are back on the menu.
"It took a while for him to get to that point, but, you know, his life has completely changed," said Pritchard.
Doctor David Fleischer is a food allergy expert who treated Alex with what's known as a immunotherapy.
First, patients are put through a test called a food challenge, this tells doctors precisely what foods kids are allergic to
Then, using a small doses of powdered food doctors expose children to what they are allergic to, little by little, day after day.
"The overall goal is to see if they can actually outgrow their allergies, meaning they can actually develop tolerance over time, " said Dr. David Fleischer from National Jewish Health.
In the past year, researchers have reported positive results for both egg and peanut allergies, though their results come with a caution.
"We're dealing with food allergens that can be very dangerous. This is not something that can be done at home, " said Fleischer.
When it is done correctly and monitored closely by a physician, this approach can change lives.
"I think it's a great idea, because kids and adults are going to be exposed to it all the time. I mean, you can't lock yourselves away in a little bubble and not live," said Pritchard.