Very likely you have heard of children who are allergic to peanuts. Sometimes the tiniest whiff of peanut dust can trigger a frightening reaction. Food allergies have been increasing dramatically among American children. In fact, one in 13 is vulnerable to a serious or life-threatening consequence if they accidentally consume the wrong food.
The standard advice for families in which someone has food allergies is to keep those foods out of the house and away from the allergic individual. Parents may need to worry about cross-contamination, and events like school picnics or birthday parties can be scary. Pediatricians used to warn parents whose young child might have an inherited tendency to allergy that they should not let the baby have any exposure to possible allergens. That is now beginning to change, with studies demonstrating that early exposure to peanut protein, for example, may be protective.
Still, once a youngster has had an allergic reaction, vigilance is key. The allergic individual or the parent must keep epinephrine (EpiPen) on hand at all times in case of anaphylaxis.
Research on oral immunotherapy is encouraging. This approach is not yet standard in most pediatricians’ offices, so you may have to hunt for a clinical trial. However, as our guests explain, a person could be exposed to a controlled tiny amount of the food allergen to desensitize the immune reaction. Subsequently, the doctor gradually increases the quantities under safe, controlled circumstances. The goal of this treatment is that the immune system adapts. Sloan Barnett’s two children went through this protocol under the guidance of pediatrician Kari Nadeau. They tell us how it is done, and how the outcome could save lives. We stress, however, that this is NOT a project that you can or should try at home. Medical supervision is crucial.
Kari Nadeau, MD, PhD, is the director of the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University and is one of the world's leading experts on food allergy. Dr. Nadeau holds the Naddisy Foundation professorship in medicine and pediatrics at Stanford University and as well as both an MD and PhD from Harvard Medical School. She is a member of Stanford's Children's Health Research Institute and the Stanford Institute of Immunity, Transplantation and Infection. She is the author, with Sloan Barnett, of The End of Food Allergy: The First Program To Prevent and Reverse a 21st Century Epidemic.
Sloan Barnett is a lawyer, journalist, and the New York Times bestselling author of Green Goes with Everything: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Cleaner Planet. Barnett chairs the California Pacific Medical Center Foundation Board and is a member of the Leadership Council of the Harvard School of Public Health. Her children have had their allergies reversed through Dr. Nadeau's program. She is the author, with Dr. Kari Nadeau, of The End of Food Allergy: The First Program To Prevent and Reverse a 21st Century Epidemic.
The photo is by Bellamy Brewster.
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