ASTHMA
August 8, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake

Egg allergies are very common in children, but overcoming them may be as simple as exposing kids to small portions of cooked egg by giving them cake.

Conquering a childhood egg allergy may just be as simple as pie — or cake, as it were. A new study finds that administering a tiny portion of cooked egg to children in the form of cake may actually be the key to overcoming an egg allergy. This form of food allergy is one of the most common types seen in young children.

Heating eggs transforms the make-up of the allergen so that it no longer triggers the allergic reaction in some children.

According to new research to be published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, heating eggs transforms the make−up of the allergen so that it no longer triggers the allergic reaction in some children. Ninety−four children, ages 12−48 months, were studied in an effort to determine whether administering increasing amounts of cooked egg in cake would diminish and eventually put an end to the children's egg allergies.

The children were initially given 0.63 milligrams of egg protein cooked in 0.1 gram pieces of cake. This amount tripled at certain intervals over a period of several months, until the children were receiving 1.5 grams of egg protein per session. At the end of the cake challenge, 87 children appeared to be allergy−free; the other seven subjects still had itching or eczema in response to the cooked egg.

As a final test, the researchers gave the 87 symptom−free children a whole egg to consume. Of these, 83 were still unreactive; the other four showed signs of itching and eczema.

The researchers caution parents not to try this method by themselves and that it should only be attempted by a physician who specializes in allergens. However, they do note that the findings present an exciting possibility for treatment and that this desensitization approach may be an effective method for combating food allergies in the future.

The team is currently running a follow−up study in which one group of children will receive increasing amounts of cooked egg as described here, and another group will receive placebo. Although most egg allergies tend to clear up by themselves by the time a child is school−aged, there has not thus far been a treatment for the allergy other than avoiding egg completely.

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