CLEVELAND (WJW) – Six-year-old Harper has overcome reactions to food allergies, including her reaction to peanuts, with treatment at the Cleveland Clinic.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, when Harper was only six months old, red blotches appeared on her face after she ate very small amounts of certain foods, like anything containing peanuts.
Harper’s mom, Katie Hoosenally, also has 8-year-old twins, Ava and Davis, who don’t suffer from food allergies. Hoosenally said she knew she had to do something to help her daughter overcome the effects of her food allergies, the Cleveland Clinic said.
Harper has gone to Cleveland Clinic allergist Sandra Hong, MD, since she was an infant.
According to Dr. Hong, introducing small doses of the foods that cause allergic reactions to children diagnosed with food allergies is often effective in building tolerance without severe allergic reactions.
According to Dr. Hong, administering these foods daily, while under supervision and with guidance from an allergist, is an important part of the process.
“If you can catch the little ones, like Harper, early in their lives, their immune systems are still quite flexible,” Dr. Hong said. “When they acquire a sustained tolerance for these foods, any allergic reactions are not nearly as significant as they get older.”
In the past, food allergy treatment centered around avoiding certain foods, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Now, introducing troublesome foods into the person’s diet earlier is the preferred treatment method.
“When you hear that, at first it doesn’t make sense,” said Hoosenally. “Now, Harper can eat as many peanuts as she wants without a reaction.”
According to the Cleveland Clinic, this form of treatment is called oral immunotherapy and is transforming how allergists treat patients with food allergies.
“Exposing Harper to little bits of peanuts every day, as long as the reaction remains mild and doesn’t progress, will help her overcome the allergy so she won’t have it as an adult. And it’s working,” Hoosenally said.
This is a primary component of the treatments practiced at the Cleveland Clinic Food Allergy Center. The center includes a nutritionist and a psychologist to address any heightened anxiety of patients dealing with food allergies.
“Many children with food allergies are bullied. They have to endure eating lunch alone at the ‘peanut table’ or don’t go to parties and other events in order to avoid getting an allergic reaction,” Dr. Hong said.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, patients and their caregivers must be mindful because the body is constantly changing.
Harper, who had not previously tested positive for tree nut allergies, suffered a severe reaction when she was two years old after taking a bite of an energy bar that contained cashews.
Almost instantly, her face swelled and she had difficulty breathing until she was given a dose of auto-injectable epinephrine, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
“We learned the hard way that you can develop a food allergy at any time in your life,” Hoosenally said.
Hoosenally is now introducing tree nuts into Harper’s diet, with the guidance of Dr. Hong.
Hoosenally said she encourages parents who have babies or children with food allergies to be diligent advocates for their children.
“Get up to speed on all the research and follow up with an allergist to see what treatment might be best for your child,” she said. “You do not want him or her to avoid these foods and then always be susceptible to a life-threatening reaction.”