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Currently, food allergy management includes complete avoidance of the trigger foods, waiting for the child to outgrow the allergy or treating allergic reactions if and when they occur. However, these common foods are difficult to avoid and waiting for the allergy to occur and then treat it could be life-threatening.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show that food allergies are on the rise in the United States. Three million children now have at least one food allergy, which is an 18% jump from 10 years ago. Milk allergy is the most prevalent type of food allergy.

Since the quality of life of a child with a food allergy is severely impaired, there is an urgent need for therapies that would go beyond strict food avoidance or waiting for the child to outgrow the allergy.

According to the results of a study led by the Johns Hopkins Children's Center,
giving children who suffer from milk allergies increasingly higher doses of milk over time may ease, and even help them completely overcome, their allergic reactions.

This is the first-ever double-blinded and placebo-controlled study of milk immunotherapy and although there were only 19 study participants, the findings are illuminating and encouraging.

A group of children receiving milk powder was compared to a group of children receiving placebo identical in appearance and taste to real milk powder. In the rigorous research setup that was designed to minimize the chance for error and bias, neither patients nor researchers knew which child received which powder.

The researchers believe that the oral immunotherapy gradually retrains the immune system to completely disregard or to better tolerate the allergens in milk that previously caused allergic reactions. These findings suggest that oral immunotherapy may be the closest thing yet to a 'true' treatment for food allergies.

The Hopkins group is studying oral immunotherapy in children with egg allergy to determine whether increasingly higher doses of egg protein can help resolve their allergy.

The researchers advise parents and caregivers not to try oral immunotherapy without medical supervision.

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The use of an allergen to desensitize the body's reaction to the same allergen can be a very dangerous proposition. I think the John Hopkin's study was a success at least partly because milk and egg usually result in relatively mild allergic reactions that are non-life threatening. I seriously doubt that oral immunotherapy can be applied on a broader scale to include more serious and life-threatening allergic reactions, where even an extremely tiny amount of the allergen can kill. I think it is more important to identify the environmental triggers that are responsible for the sharp increase in food allergies in children.
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