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Every three minutes in the United States, someone is rushed to an emergency room after a dangerous reaction to food. Now experts are testing a surprising therapy to lessen the severity of food allergies.
Almost from the time she was born, little Juliette Lajcaj suffered from eczema.
Kristina Lajcaj, Juliette’s mom, says, “Raw, red, rashy. Those are three words I would use to describe it.”
The skin rashes were a sign of possible allergies. In Juliette’s case doctors determined she was allergic to peanuts. For mom Kristina, whose older son is also allergic to nuts, it’s frightening.
Kristina continues, “If he grabs a nut, or she grabs a nut, or if she grabs something her throat is going to close up and potentially cause her to die.”
Dr. Anna Nowak is the Director of Clinical Research at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute. Dr. Nowak is testing a process called oral immunotherapy or OIT. For Juliette, OIT involves eating peanut butter, the very food that she is supposed to avoid.
Dr. Nowak explains, “It starts with a tiny amount that she takes under supervision, during the visit. Then she takes the same amount at home.”
Dr. Nowak says the patients testing OIT are carefully monitored. It’s a slow process over months, and while it’s still investigational, Dr. Nowak says it does increase tolerance.
Dr. Nowak continues, “We know this can be accomplished for most children. The big unknown is can we cure her of peanut allergy?”
For Kristina, anything that lessens the severity of her daughter’s allergic reaction down the road is worth trying now.
Kristina says, “Food is supposed to nourish your kids, not cause any type of issue like this.”
Doctors stress that oral immunotherapy should not be started at home without a doctor’s supervision. Kristina does continue to carry medication with her, in case her daughter has a sudden reaction.