FRIDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Kids with a serious food allergy generally have to steer clear of the offending food, but methods now under development could change that common scenario.
More than 3 million American youths -- about one of every 25 -- have a food allergy of some sort, usually to milk, eggs or peanuts, according to U.S. government statistics. For them, "avoidance has been the mainstay of treatment for a long time," said Dr. William Silvers, an allergist in private practice in Vail, Colo., and a spokesman for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
"Now what we're seeing is an increased interest in oral immunotherapy," Silvers said. "This means giving small and slowly increased doses orally of foods that children are allergic to, and building up the amount ingested over time to desensitize the child to the food so they can tolerate it."
That doesn't come string-free, though. Dr. Carla Davis, an allergist at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, noted that once children have been desensitized to a certain food, they have to continue eating it regularly or they'll become allergic to the food again.
"There isn't a maintenance of tolerance if you avoid the foods," she explained.
Along with desensitization, another potential new treatment for food allergies is a drug called omalizumab (Xolair). Silvers said that it works by blocking the activity of the allergy-causing substance known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) so that an allergic reaction never starts.
However, the food allergy would come back if a person were to stop using the drug, which is currently available only in an injectable form and has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in children younger than 12.
Some researchers, though, think that a combination of the two treatments might be better than either alone. Early reports from a very
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