New therapies promise relief for food allergy sufferers

HOUSTON - One in every 13 kids has a food allergy. That's two in every classroom.

Unfortunately, there is no cure, but there are important strides being made in research that could change the lives of millions of people.

On Saturday, thousands of Houstonians will lace up their shoes for the seventh annual Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) "Walk for Food Allergy." KPRC Local 2 anchor Dominique Sachse will serve as honorary chair.

The goal is to raise $200,000 for education, awareness and research to help those living with this potentially lethal condition.

Mike Lade, vice chair of FAAN's Board of Directors and volunteer chair of the Walk for Food Allergy, said, "There is no cure and even a trace amount of an allergen can be enough to put you in a life-threatening situation."

About 150 people die each year from an allergic reaction to food.

The eight most common foods responsible for 90 percent of food allergies are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts), fish (such as bass, cod, flounder), shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp), soy and wheat.

Symptoms include hives, swelling, wheezing, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures or worse.

Dr. Carla Davis, allergy and immunology specialist at Texas Children's Hospital explained, "The smallest exposure to a food protein can cause a drop in blood pressure and death in a child or adult who doesn't get epinephrine or treatment for this."

Davis added that promising therapies are on the horizon such as "desensitization."

She explained, "That's where a food is introduced to a child or an adult that's allergic in very small amounts. This amount is increased very slowly over time to help the person develop tolerance to the food. Also, there are hopes that a pig whipworm treatment could be used to decrease the amount of food allergy symptoms."

FAAN is also preparing to merge with Food Allergy Initiative (FAI), a partnership aimed at increasing funding to, hopefully, find a cure.

Lade said, "In 2004, the federal government was spending $4 million a year on food allergy research. Last year, it was about $27 million. That number needs to grow exponentially. With a common voice, we can advocate for that."

These new therapies have been proven effective, but they are risky, so the patient must be monitored by a medical specialist.

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