Raising healthy kids with food allergies

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November 21, 2013 9:06:14 AM PST
President Obama signed a bill today to help children with severe food allergies get better access to a life-saving medication.

The legislation offers financial incentives to states if their schools stockpile epinephrine, usually in the form of auto-injectors called Epipens.

Doctors consider it the first-line treatment for severe allergic reactions.

This new measure comes as a growing number of American children deal with food allergies. But they needn't slow a child down.

Michael Gialoretto of Swedeseboro, N.J., loves his daily glass of chocolate milk. To him and mom Maria, it's a special achievement since Michael has had a host of food allergies since he was little.

Maria explains, "Every month or so, he was popping up with a new food allergy."

Dr. Rushani Saltzman of Children's Hospital Care Network says skin tests are the best way to zero in on food allergies.

"We take the extract for the different food proteins, and then we have a little fork and we scratch the skin," said Dr. Saltzman.

If a spot turns red or bubbles, there's an allergy.

Dr. Saltzman says food allergies and food intolerances are different. Allergies trigger a reaction in the immune system, such as hives, coughing, wheezing, or swelling in the throat. An intolerance means the intestines can't digest the food.

Dr. Saltzman says, "You see symptoms primarily isolated to the gut."

Although it's best to avoid the problem foods, families should be ready for accidental exposures. So, Michael's emergency kit goes everywhere with him.

He also took part in a study with Dr. Saltzman, slowly building his milk tolerance - from a tiny amount to a full glass.

Dr. Saltzman tells us, "We started him in the summer time, and it took us till spring time to get up to the 8 ounces."

"It was so worth it - it was life-changing," said Michael's mom.

Michael now eats pizza with cheese, and even ice cream.

Dr. Saltzman says children often grow out of food allergies. In the meantime, kids who are involved in their care are much less likely to have an accident.


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