HEALTH

Johns Hopkins study rids most kids of food allergies

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 Food allergies affect about two children in every school classroom, according to the Food Allergy Initiative. Egg allergy is the second most common allergy in children and new research shows promising advances for a cure.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, finds the key to a cure that might require children to eat the foods they're allergic to, but researchers warn these are preliminary findings and this method is not safe for parents to try at home.

Until recently, 10-year-old Tad Berkery wouldn't eat, let alone touch, an egg.

"My eyes got puffy, my tongue would probably get itchy and my nose would get stuffy," sad Berkery.

Because of her son's allergy to eggs, Stephanie Kuroda established an egg-free household, scoured ingredient lists and even sent a special egg-free piece of cake with him to birthday parties.

"I think every food allergy parent worries about the health of their child knowing that just a little piece of food could kill their kid," said Kuroda.

But thanks to his participation in a recent study at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, Tad can now safely eat eggs.

Researchers studied a treatment called oral immunotherapy, where children with egg allergies ate gradually-increasing doses of egg white powder every day.

"We're taking the same old idea used for allergy shots where you gradually expose someone to what they're allergic to," said Dr. Robert Wood, director of allergy and immunology.

After 22 months, 75-percent of the children could eat 10 grams of egg whites without a reaction. To see if the effect would last, the children didn't eat eggs for six weeks and had another test.

"About a quarter of the kids we felt were fully cured of the allergy," said Dr. Wood.

The rest regained some of their allergic reaction.

"They weren't as bad as at the beginning, but weren't fully protected. That tells us there will be a group of people who will need to keep it in their diet."

Tad now eats eggs twice a week to maintain his protection, a protection he and his mother say has completely changed their lives.

"A lot less stressful," said Kuroda. "It's really nice."

"The only way I could get sick is if I ate so many cupcakes I'd already be sick from eating too much," joked Berkery.

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