Doctors try new approach to treating food allergies

Is your kid allergic to peanuts or eggs? Food allergies have shot up in recent years.

Now doctors are trying a new approach to help kids overcome their allergies. They're having kids eat the very foods that make them sick.

It wasn't long ago that this was unthinkable.

As a baby, Alex Pritchard was diagnosed with severe food allergies including eggs.

His mother quickly found out they're everywhere.

"It's in everything. Everything from flu-shots to meatballs, because you use egg as a binder when you cook," says Alex's mom Tammy.

Because of that, Alex spent most of his life avoiding a lot of foods. But now, eggs are back on the menu.

Dr. David Fleischer with National Jewish Health says, "It took a while for him to get to that point, but, you know, his life has completely changed."

What made the difference for Alex was a therapy based on exposure, not avoidance.

Dr. Fleischer is a food allergy expert who treated Alex with what's known as a immunotherapy.

First, patients are put through a test called a food challenge, that tells doctors precisely what foods kids are allergic to.

Then, using small doses of powdered food like this, the idea is to expose children to the foods they're allergic to, little by little, day after day.

Dr. Fleischer says, "The overall goal is to see if they can actually outgrow their allergies, meaning they can actually develop tolerance over time." and early results show the strategy is working.

In the past year, researchers have reported positive results for both egg and peanut allergies. But it all comes with a caution. 

Dr. Fleischer says, "We're dealing with food allergens that can be very dangerous. This is not something that can be done at home."

But when it is done correctly and monitored closely by a doctor, this approach can change lives.

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