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‘Pretend I’m not allergic’ – there’s now hope that day could come

Submitted by on Sunday, 15 March 2009 No Comment

Next to “bop brother over the head” and baseball, “pretend I’m not allergic” is Big Guy’s favorite game.

Boots will sit with their toy cash register as his brother orders at McDonald’s. “I’ll have chicken nuggets, fries and lots of ketchup. Oh, and chocolate milk.”

“Babes, you know  you can’t have the nuggets, right? They might have garlic,” I remind him, vexed that most food companies can’t be bothered to say exactly what “spices” includes in their ingredient lists.

“Oh, I know. But pretend I’m not allergic.”

He’ll grab a pizza box from his room — our local Pizza Hut let us swipe two clean extras one trip — go outside and ring the doorbell.

“Pizza man here! Did someone order a  pepperoni pizza?

“No,” I’ll say. “My little boy can’t eat delivery pizza.”

“Mom!” he’ll scold. “Pretend I’m not allergic.”

Batman will throw a birthday party for Thomas, and everyone eats cake. One of the trains used to get cupcakes.

“Nobody’s allergic anymore,” he’ll smile.

Today, we are closer to that than we’ve ever been.

“I think the whole area of food allergies is exciting …” Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, an allergist and member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology board of directors, told Health Day. “New treatments are coming out, and while they are not clinically available yet, they are not far away either.”

Other doctors such as Wesley Burks,  chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke University Medical Center, is more specific. Based on research he’s helped conduct, he thinks treatment for peanut allergies could be available in two to three years.

As part of the Duke research, 33 children with confirmed peanut allergies were given near-microscopic daily doses of peanut powder, the New York Times reported. Though four children had to drop out because they reacted violently to even tiny doses of peanut, most of the children were able to tolerate the treatment, and five were able to discontinue it after two years.

Two years? That’s fantastic. It took me twice that long of twice-weekly injections to be able to make it through spring without a raw nose and blood-red eyes due to airborne allergies. And there was nothing anyone could do about my food allergies.

That’s because the theory used to hold that the food allergic could simply avoid problem foods. Now that there are so many more of us – the prevalence of food allergy among children increased 18 percent from 1997 to 2007 – treatment is started to draw more research interest.

In addition to the Duke study, Johns Hopkins is conducting research into treatments for milk allergies, while Consortium of Food Allergy Research is looking into treatment for egg allergies.

None of that would get Big Guy his nuggets or delivery pizza – he might be getting close anyway, as the severity of his garlic allergy decreases every year – but it would get him his birthday cake.

It also would give millions of parents additional peace of mind every time they send their children out into the world. Most importantly, though, it could prevent some of the 2,000 hospitalizations and 150 deaths a year due to food allergies.

No allergy treatment is going to work for all sufferers. It hasn’t for airborne allergies, and it’s not so far for food allergies either.

But for some, there’s new hope that “I’m not allergic” can be more than a game of pretend.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved,

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