other developments ease peanut allergies
of Article: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/fea/lifetravel/stories/DN-nh_peanuts_0630gd.ART0.State.Edition1.4bc59a3.html
PM CDT on Tuesday, June 30, 2009
years, parents have struggled to keep even trace amounts of peanuts away
from their allergic children. They read labels, plan peanut-free parties
and generally alter their lives to avoid contact that could turn deadly.
for nuts at a restaurant for Jett McConnell as grandmother Teresa Lawler
waits for the verdict.
1.8 million Americans are allergic to peanuts, and 400,000 of those are
school-age children, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.
Only 20 percent of children outgrow it.
the most common food allergy. And, of all the food allergies, peanuts and
tree nuts are the most likely to cause severe reactions, according to the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Sufferers can spend years
trying to avoid the offending legume. But avoidance isn't foolproof.
Reactions can include hives, stomach cramps, vomiting and shortness of
breath, according to the Mayo Clinic.
includes antihistamines and, in rare cases of a severe reaction,
epinephrine (an EpiPen) to avert life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
health crisis becomes more prevalent, researchers, children willing to
endure clinical trials and even a Texas dog trainer are getting involved.
Nobody is expecting a cure soon. But these interesting developments are on
Houston policeman suggested a few years ago that narcotics-sniffing dogs be
trained to find peanuts, Sharon Perry, director of training and owner of
Southern Star Ranch Boarding Kennel in Florence, realized it wasn't a
then, Perry has trained a handful of dogs for kids across the nation.
scours Dallas-area animal shelters for the perfect prodigies, she looks for
pooches that are "wild, crazy and want to play ball 'til hell freezes
over, maybe a little longer," she says. She then takes them back to
her kennel just south of Killeen for six months of intense instruction.
first dog went to a Houston family a few years ago. Perry recalls how the
mother was on board but her husband was doubtful. So Perry quickly demonstrated
how the dog knew the difference between a McDonald's chicken nugget and one
cooked in peanut oil from Chick-Fil-A.
Gensel of Tampa, Fla., has seen such remarkable work in action. Family dog
Remy can detect minute traces of nuts, which means son Billy's life has
changed immeasurably since the black lab joined them a year ago.
example, hotel rooms, restaurants and airplanes used to be strictly off
limits. Now vacations are worry-free with Remy, who is allowed access as a
medical companion dog.
small things to the average individual, but to my son and me, they're
exciting adventures we never thought he would be able to enjoy," she
says a steady interest in these dogs is sometimes met with disappointment.
"What kills them is the price," $9,995, she says. "I'd love
to do it for less but that means I'm going in the hole."
and Gensel are discussing how to create a nonprofit group to help ease the
financial blow for families.
are making inroads, according to a study released in March. Dr. Wesley
Burks, chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke University Medical
Center, along with his colleagues at Arkansas Children's Hospital, slowly
exposed allergic children to peanuts. His ongoing study involves 100
children and has a waiting list of 100 additional families. The treatment's
first goal is to desensitize patients to peanuts.
example, most of the kids react to less than one-hundredth of a peanut
going in to this study," he says. "And at the end of about a
year, the ones on active treatment can tolerate about 15 peanuts. So it
raises their threshold. If they take a bite of cookie or something that has
peanut in it, they're not likely to have a reaction while they're on
second goal is to make the allergy go away altogether.
work needs to be done to see if it will have long-term benefit, but early
results look promising," says Anne Muņoz-Furlong, founder of the Food
Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, which paid for the pilot study.
"For patients and their families, the results of this study serve as a
beacon of hope that one day soon, they won't have to worry about trace
amounts of peanut causing a reaction."
changes may be reality in less than five years, Burk says, although other
experts are less optimistic.
research being done at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai
Medical Center in New York, a botanical drug (Food Allergy Herbal Formula,
FAHF-2) is showing potential. Their findings were recently published in the
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology .
work in Dallas
Rebecca Gruchalla, chief of allergy and immunology at UT Southwestern
Medical Center, says she is optimistic about such strides, including work
being done by the Consortium of Food Allergy headed up by Dr. Hugh Sampson,
director of the Jaffe institute.
hoping that in the not-distant future, we will be able to translate some of
the research being done ... into clinical practice," says Gruchalla.
Plans are in place to bring in pediatric food-allergy specialist Drew Bird
from Duke University this summer to begin his own clinical food-allergy
program at Children's Medical Center in Dallas.
is a tremendous amount of work being done and much progress has been
made," she says. "I think there is going to be wonderful
treatment for children and adults with food allergies in the very near
future. We're just not quite there yet."
Green is a Plano freelance writer.