Children who suffer from severe food allergies are seen in increasing numbers all over the world. In Italy, some progress is being made via a new type of desensitization program. Dramatic results -- equating to a cure -- have been seen in numbers of patients.
The medical team of the Pediatric Clinic of the University of Trieste has demonstrated the possibility that “superallergic” children can accept problem foods without suffering from severe, and occasionally lethal reactions such as anaphylaxis. The study – directed by professor Alessandro Ventura – lasted three years, at the end of which 36% of the children involved, once severely allergic to even minimal contact with the dangerous food, achieved the ability to follow a normal diet without presenting any adverse reactions. 54% of the remaining patients involved in the study had some allergic symptoms remain, but were able to tolerate minimal quantities of the problem food in their diet.
With this work recently published by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the researchers confirmed the validity of a face-to-face direct approach to severe food allergies that this clinic has long been practicing in direct opposition to the approach most allergists recommend of simply avoiding problem foods.
Sixty Italian children, classified as “superallergic” to milk or eggs according to the severity of the symptoms, were selected and involved in the study. The desensitization program is done in two sections. The first one, where there is a major risk of severe reactions, lasts 10 days and takes place in a hospital. During that time, the problem food is administered at rapidly increasing doses, at two hour intervals, until at discharge the child is able to eat a significant amount of that food. The second section takes place at home with the cooperation of the parents. There, the administration of the problem food occurs once a day, at a much slower and gradual rate of increase. In doing so the child is able to tolerate ever-increasing doses until he or she is able to follow a completely normal diet. The positive result (recovery) is usually obtained within a year.
The results – One third of the treated patient group now eats freely, whatever he or she feels like. Half of them have not reached a normal diet yet, but are able to introduce significant quantities of the problem foods without showing any adverse reaction. 10% of the treated patients did not respond positively to the treatment, and despite all the attempts, continue to present adverse reactions. There were no lethal cases despite the fact that these allergies were of the most extreme type.