"All other allergies have lots of treatments," says Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. "With food allergy, we have nothing: Avoid the food, take epinephrine (adrenaline shots to counteract anaphylaxis, a deadly reaction) and get to the hospital."
It's a little too early to run to your doctor, but a variety of treatments for food allergies - at least for the very young children who are first developing allergies - are in the testing phase, according to an article by Rita Rubin in USA Today.
Early results in tests on humans look promising for three experimental treatments:
•Oral immunotherapy. Under close supervision by health care professionals, patients swallow tiny but gradually increasing amounts of the foods that trigger their allergies, with the idea of building immunity. This method is being tested for peanut, egg and milk allergies.
•Sublingual therapy. Drops containing proteins that trigger allergies are put under the tongue, where they are absorbed into the bloodstream. This method is being tested for various food allergies.
•Food allergy herbal formula-2. Known as FAHF-2, this pill (not available in stores) is based on a 2,000-year-old Chinese remedy. It contains nine botanicals, including ginseng and oil made from cinnamon tree bark. It is being tested for peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish allergies.
Building tolerance can take a year or more, and parents with children in the studies must drive them to a research center every other week. For a few, the round trip is hundreds of miles — a small price, in parents' eyes.
"This is the first time that we have a number of studies going on at the same time," Munoz-Furlong says. "This is huge for the food allergy community. We finally can say that probably in 10 years, the landscape will look very different than it does now."