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Is using desensitization techniques to treat allergies new?
No, it’s not. Allergists have been using it for years to treat hay fever and other environmental allergies. It’s officially called immunotherapy.  Desensitization can be done with needles, orally (food) or sublingual (under the tongue.)  There is proof the desensitization works for food allergies.  But there's an element of risk, and it looks like it's a temporary measure, not a cure.

How can I get my child enrolled in a desensitization study?
Research is now ongoing. You can search the new Health Canada Clinical Trials Database or the US clinicaltrails.gov site to find out about new and upcoming studies that may be recruiting in your area. Also ask your doctor.

Where can I find out more about Canadian research on allergies?
The Allergy, Genes and Environment (AllerGen) Network is a national organization committed to research investigating the root causes, and effective treatment and management of allergies, asthma and anaphylaxis. To learn more about  Canadian research, including peanut desensitization trials and the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study birth cohort study, visit AllerGen NCE.

Where can I find the peanut patch?
The peanut patch is not yet commercially available. DVB Technologies, a French biotech company is currently testing the patch which is called Viaskin. They are also testing a milk patch which should be available in stores soon.

Can I try food desensitization with my child at home?
Please don’t. Food allergies can be fatal and home treatment is not recommended. The doses used by doctors are microscopic. Researchers feel that further study is needed before food desensitization is used to treat large groups of children.

Did I hear that right? Worms are being used to treat allergies?
Yes, here’s where you can find out more.

Should I give my child Vitamin D?
The science on allergies and Vitamin D is unclear. However, Health Canada does recommend that all breastfed, healthy babies receive a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU which should begin at birth and continue for at least a full year. This is to reduce the risk of rickets and build strong teeth and bones. Vitamin D is naturally found in foods like salmon, tuna and eggs. Other foods like orange juice, milk and cheese have vitamin D added. The body also makes Vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Here are the current Health Canada guidelines.

Should I take my child to visit a farm?
Farm life does appear to reduce the incidence of allergies. But before you rush your city kids to the farm know that occasional visits may exacerbate your allergies. Visiting farms isn't going to build the kind of resistance to allergies that living on one would do.  You really need to grow up on a farm.  It all starts with life in the womb; they're guessing that most of the protective effect is built in the first year or two of life.

How soon should I introduce foods associated with allergies to my child?
The Canadian Pediatric Society has recently issued a new statement which reversed their previous one. There is no need to shield children from these foods in the early months after they begin eating solid foods. Delaying exposure does not reduce the risk of developing a food allergy later in life. In fact, there are concerns that this might have the opposite effect. This advice also extends to pregnant women and nursing mothers.

What is the best treatment for food allergies?
For now, avoidance is still the best treatment. For serious allergies, carry an allergy kit with antihistamines and an EPI pen with you at all times. Hopefully a better solution is on the way soon.

 

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