Could radical new treatments help kids with multiple food allergies?

It’s commonplace for people with environmental allergies to get multiple shots at one time with a mix of different allergens. So for example before I got pregnant with my third child, I was getting three shots with a mix of grass pollens, tree pollens, cat, dog and dust mites.

However for children with multiple severe food allergies, this approach had never been attempted, for fear of extreme reaction, until recently.

Kari Nadeau, an M.D./Ph.D. and an associate professor of allergies and immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, began treating children in 2011 with oral immunotherapy for multiple allergens. Here’s quick summary of the story. It runs 10 pages long.

From The New York Times Magazine:

“Nadeau and others, however, were having success with a trial of a treatment known as oral immunotherapy that could desensitize children with severe peanut allergies. The treatment re-educated the hyperactive immune systems of allergy patients by giving them minute doses of peanut every day, gradually escalating the amount over the course of several years. Eventually patients build up their tolerance for the food, and it is no longer dangerous.”

But eliminating single food allergens at such a slow pace could take years so Nadeau wondered if they could do more together like the environmental allergens.

“Could patients be desensitized to more than one allergen at a time? No one had ever tried it, but more than a third of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food. If it was safe to give patients x milligrams of one allergen, would it be safe to give them one-fifth of x milligrams of five different allergens, as long as the total dose remained the same? That would assume that allergens function in a linear, additive fashion — rather than a multiplicative one; it was also possible that they could interact with one another to produce a more severe reaction….”

By November 2011, Nadeau had FDA approval to begin testing and had raised enough money for two trials with 85 patients, who could be desensitized for up to five allergens.

(The story is 10 pages long but you really should read it if you have kids with severe food allergies.)

The trials have been very successful and treated children are able to eat eggs, cake, pizza – all things that would have literally killed them before.

“Nadeau stresses that oral immunotherapy is still experimental. Her patients are not cured; they are desensitized enough that they can tolerate their former allergens. The reason that she doesn’t call it a cure is that the child must continue to eat a maintenance dose of the food every day to avoid regaining the allergy. She often explains to her patients, “If you get off it for three days, you may become sensitive again.” An egg-allergy trial found that when patients were taken off the maintenance dose for a month, roughly 60 percent regained the allergy (and there was no way to predict who those patients would be).”

With more than 5.9 million children in the United States with food allergies (1 in the 13 children in a classroom) and with that rate on the rise (1 in 10 children in preschool have food allergies), this may be an important treatment for many families who stress each day about what foods their kids could accidentally touch or eat.

So what so you think: Is this something you would be interested in checking out for your child? Has your allergist every discussed a similar treatment? What are you having to do now to prevent a severe reaction to food allergies?

15 comments Add your comment

malleesmom

March 13th, 2013
7:06 am

Yes I would (and did) use sublingual immunotherapy treatment for my child. If we still lived in the ATL we’d would be continuing treatment. It is not offered by any allergists in MN. My daughter began treatment in 2009 and it was the best thing we did. We always knew she had allergies but the first round of testing was inconclusive. Fast forward 5 years, we were considering surgery for her. The new allergist said, she did not need surgery. We needed to get to the root of her allergies. She was re-tested and found sensitive to 33/36 allergens. No wonder she could never breathe! We began allergy drops and within months we noticed significant improvement. We continued treatment until we moved in 2011. Most of her allergies are plant based; grasses, trees, molds, fermented things, etc. If it grows/sprouts, it’s potentially an issue. We’ve been without treatment for a year. The biggest issue remains things that are yeasty, fermented or aged. Our climate changed so that helps but food issues will always be there. Every case is different. We do not have the major, anaphylaxis-causing allergies in our world. They could arise though.

b2b

March 13th, 2013
7:14 am

Does anyone have experience with the Chinese Herbal treatment: FAHF-2?

FCM

March 13th, 2013
1:45 pm

Since the topic is getting no traction:

New Pope has been selected.

Becky

March 13th, 2013
2:24 pm

@FCM..Saw that.. Coworkers are wanting it to be an American.. :)

FCM

March 13th, 2013
2:39 pm

Argentinian was my guess yesterday.

Church just settled (for $10 Million) a case in I think CA …..I think that is what I saw on the news. I really doubted that it would be an American after that came out. Sends the wrong message.

I am surprised that this one is 76. I really thought they would go younger this time.

jmb

March 13th, 2013
2:56 pm

FCM – They should go younger. I just don’t get electing someone of that age. I understand that wisdom and knowledge come with age but good grief. We’re going to have to go through all this crap again in what – 5 or 10 years? Why not elect one that’s say 50 and just have an elder pope to guide them.

Becky

March 13th, 2013
3:02 pm

Yeah, I didn’t think chances were good for an American either..

Not only 76, but is missing one lung..I also thought they would go younger..Guess it’s a good thing that I don’t get paid to think huh?

Realist

March 13th, 2013
3:12 pm

I read that the addition of peanut proteins to multiple childhood vaccines is behind the recent significant uptick in peanut allergies nationwide. Wouldn’t surprise me. There are so many allergens in those vaccines it is a wonder any child makes it through them alive.

Cutting out the gluten, processed foods, and other food components that cause “leaky gut” syndrome has been shown to significantly reduce allergies as it allows the bodies normal defenses to properly process the proteins without them “leaking” directly into the bloodstream as happens with that syndrome. But of course such a logical, easy approach would undermine the hugely profitable processed food industry in this country as well as the bigPharma companies and doctors who make a fortune treating everyone for these easily correctable allergies.

mom2alex&max

March 13th, 2013
3:52 pm

Ok, I’m gonna preface this by saying that while I am thrilled that we have a non-european pope AND a Jesuit to boot, I too was hoping for a younger one. But that is really never gonna happen.

An American Pope was a looooooooooong shot for two reasons:
1. The Catholic Church in Rome believes that the USA already has way too much power in world affairs and it would be an even bigger imbalance if the Pope was American. It could potentially create political conflicts
2. Most of the abuse scandals occurred here in the US. Electing an American Pope would definitely not send the right message. There is the potential for the public to PERCEIVE (not saying it would happen, just saying the perception would be there) that even more was being covered up.

Georgia

March 13th, 2013
6:19 pm

The new pope happens to be allergic to religious nuts. What are the odds?

Miss Priss!

March 13th, 2013
6:33 pm

Does this new pope smile? The last one didn’t.

Georgia

March 13th, 2013
7:01 pm

We don’t want no pope to smile, okay? When it comes to God, nothing is funny. Show me one joke in the bible, that God told man.

Not there. Believe me, I’ve looked.

There’s only one exception. Jesus talked about cutting off your right hand if it caused you to sin and lose your soul for all eternity. Was He referring to wankers? Now THAT’S funny.

But otherwise, show me the Bit. It ain’t there.

curious

March 13th, 2013
7:54 pm

Regarding the sublingual immunotherapy (the first comment, sorry, happy about Pope news but very interested in the allergy stuff): may I ask where you did the drops? I would love to know more about that.

Thanks.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

March 14th, 2013
1:20 am

I am shocked that this held such little interest for folks with the number of children with multiple food allergies. I really thought this would be a hot one. I am so surprised. You never know.

On the pope — I am glad from South America — I thought should be from S. America or Africa cause that is where Catholics are thriving — not Europe — Loved that he took St. Francis for his namesake –that our pastor’s favorite saint and he often speaks about him to the children in the family Mass. I am very excited and hope there is reform and resolutions to sex scandals and financial scandals — they need to clear house, start fresh and do better.

I had two phone calls today while they were naming him and I was like can’t talk now — new pope — got to run!

malleesmom

March 14th, 2013
4:52 am

@curious – the allergist we used in Atlanta: Piedmont Ear, Nose, Throat & Related Allergy website is http://www.piedent.com It was the best decision we could make for our child and I would do it again. I will say that insurance adjustments over the years was challenging. The drops weren’t covered for the first couple of years, then they were covered and then not covered again by the time we moved. Honestly it was a no-brainer. Three drops under the tongue every morning. No shots, no weekly/monthly visits to the allergist. We saw him twice a year for re-check. Best part was our child could breathe. Her use of OTC allergy medicine decreased as well. She still used Claritin for example but only during the late spring rather than most of the year. She eventually needed less of the Rx nasal sprays etc. We were able to control her symptoms much more easily. We used drops for three years. The recommended course was 3-5. We only stopped due to leaving the Atlanta area. Hope that helps.