FRIDAY, Nov. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Early new research offers
some hopeful findings for parents of children with food
One new study suggests that some children with hen egg allergies
could safely consume such eggs if they are baked at a high enough
temperature for a long enough time. What's more, investigators
suggest that parents who start to incorporate such cooked eggs into
their child's diet may actually help them develop a broader
tolerance to eggs than by avoiding eggs altogether.
A second study argues that many allergic children will outgrow
their condition by age 10, allowing them to safely expand their
eating options over time.
However, two experts strongly advised caution in introducing
allergy-causing foods back into children's diet and said that this
must only be done under medical supervision.
Both studies were scheduled for presentation this week at the
annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and
Immunology in Anaheim, Calif.
Dr. Rushani Weerasooriya Saltzman, an attending physician in the
division of allergy and immunology at the Children's Hospital of
Philadelphia, led the egg-allergy study.
"Hen's egg is one of the most common food allergens in children," Saltzman said, noting that upwards of 600,000 American children are currently diagnosed with the condition. "Fortunately, most patients will outgrow their egg allergy by late childhood. However, until one may outgrow his or her egg allergy, egg avoidance can cause significant dietary limitations and considerable impacts on quality of life."
But heat-driven changes in the protein structure of eggs can
make them safe for allergic children, Saltzman's team found. "(And)
furthermore," she said, "those who can tolerate these extensively
heated egg products appear to outgrow their allergy to regular or
'native' egg at an accelerated rate when compared to those patients
with egg allergy who maintain strict avoidance to egg."
The team conducted 36 "oral food challenges" that involved
exposing patients diagnosed with an egg allergy to three eggs that
had been baked into a standard cake/bread recipe for a half hour at
More than half (56 percent) of the patients displayed tolerance
to the food, leading the authors to conclude that a majority of
patients had outgrown their condition. And this, they said, could
lead to such patients being able to embark on a much more diverse
diet and perhaps the development of even greater food tolerance
down the road.
A second study team led by pediatrician Dr. Ruchi Gupta, at
Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, conducted a survey to assess
how much the eight most common food allergies in U.S. children
younger than 10 persisted or waned with age.
The survey found 2,120 children aged older than 10 with known
food allergies. Of these, 28 percent were found to have developed
food allergy tolerance at some point following their initial
Children who had been diagnosed with an egg allergy before 10
years of age were the most likely to go on to outgrow their
allergy, followed by those with a milk allergy diagnosis.
Specifically, 55 percent of egg-allergic children and 45 percent
of milk-allergic kids ultimately developed tolerance to each
respective food at an average age of about 6 and 7 years.
But only 16 percent of those with tree nut allergies and 14
percent of those with shellfish allergies went on to outgrow their
condition. And both groups did so at later ages -- nearly 12 years
old for shellfish allergy and almost 10 years old for tree nut
Those who outgrew their food allergies were found to be much
less likely to experience severe reactions such as trouble
breathing or anaphylaxis.
Boys were more likely to outgrow their allergy than girls. Kids
with initially severe allergies faced worse odds than those
diagnosed with a mild to moderate allergic condition.
John Lehr, chief executive officer of the Food Allergy &
Anaphylaxis Network, said that while the study findings are
encouraging, parents must nonetheless be careful when considering
how to handle childhood allergies.
"We are encouraged by studies that show certain food allergies such as egg can be outgrown and that some children can tolerate egg in baked form," Lehr said. "But we want to caution that parents of children with food allergies must never attempt to reintroduce food allergens into their child's diet on their own -- this must be done under the supervision of an allergist."
Lona Sandon a registered dietitian and an assistant professor of
clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Dallas,
agreed about the need for caution.
"In some cases, children do appear to outgrow allergies," she said. "But parents should be cautious about foods that have caused past reactions. In the case of egg allergies, there may be something different about the egg cooked into a baked product than eating a fried egg. Could it be the dose of the egg protein or maybe the change in the protein structure as a result of baking that makes it different and less allergenic? It is hard to say. And we do not know at what age allergies might subside."
"The bottom line is to be cautious in trying foods that contain ingredients that have been known to cause severe allergic reactions," Sandon said. "Reactions tend to get worse each time. It would be wise to meet with an allergist before trying to reintroduce foods that have been known to cause reactions."
Because the studies were presented at a medical meeting, the
data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until
published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For more on children and food allergies, visit
the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.
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