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Trials used to prevent allergic reactions to food

NBC News Channel
November 10, 2017 05:23 PM

(NBC News) -- Martina Manning will always remember that life-changing moment. She gave her baby, Reid, who's now 12, some yogurt. Minutes later, his face broke out in hives.

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Doctors soon discovered he had a whole host of allergies.

"It was just scary," she said.

It turns out Reid was allergic not only to yogurt, but nuts, wheat, soy, corn, and dairy. As he got older, all but one of those allergies went away.

"He would lie in bed crying. Basically, we're talking two or three saying 'This stinks. This just stinks,'" Manning said. "'I don't understand why I can't have nuts, why I just can't be like other kids.'"

Reid isn't alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 13 kids has food allergies with 9,500 hospital visits a year. The number of cases is up at least 50 percent.

The most problematic foods are peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish.

World-renowned University of South Florida allergist Dr. Richard Lockey says not so fast.

"Absolutely, it's being blown out of proportion," he said. "Most people don't have a food allergy. But when they have a food allergy, they get a reaction and the parents are going to witness that reaction."

So how do you know if it's a reaction? Lockey said it typically happens within 30 minutes of eating the food, and that's when parents need to make a beeline to their doctor's office.

"I can't go through that anymore," Manning said. "I've spent so many years in fear for my child's life.

Then the game changer emerged in the form of a program that desensitizes some people like Reid to peanuts.

"But I was so scared to do it because the thought of taking him and having him eat something that could potentially kill him was very frightening," Manning said.

But after taking that first frightening step, Manning's now giving Reid proper peanut proportions. His body is slowly getting used to it. It's similar to FDA clinically approved trials happening right now at USF.

"Our impression is that we are able to make a lot of them tolerant to peanuts and if not completely tolerant, their tolerant to eat one or two or three peanuts and that no longer causes severe reaction," Lockey said.

Now Reid's just looking forward to eating that first peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

"It's miraculous because it changes a child's life," Manning said. "They no longer have to live in fear."

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