PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A local doctor is helping kids overcome severe peanut allergies.
Meet a 7th-grader who was able to trick-or-treat like a typical kid on Halloween for the first time, after completing the program.
One and a half peanuts to each Hershey kiss and that's how 12-year-old Sydney Sonstein follows her now daily regimen to eat eight peanuts a day. Two years ago, she couldn't even touch peanuts.
"Usually if I touched them I would get hives all over my body," said Sydney.
At age 3, Sydney was found to be severely allergic to peanuts requiring an epinephrine pen to be with her at all times.
Her parents had to read labels, ask questions and make sure their daughter wasn't inadvertently exposed to even a small amount of peanut.
"We were on constant high alert. It was just a constant state of stress all the time," said Amy Sonstein, Sydney's mom.
When they heard about allergist Doctor Manav Segal and his protocol to help kids overcome food allergies, they jumped at the chance. It's called Oral Immunotherapy or O.I.T.
Dr. Manav Segal of Chestnut Hill Allergy & Asthma Assoc. said, "This is a situation where you can actually change something, change the way a body sees something its allergic to."
The process starts with patients taking just a tiny amount of this peanut extract, then slowly over time the dose is increased, eventually moving up to this peanut powder and then to actual peanuts.
Each dose increase has to be done in the doctor's office under close supervision in case there's an allergic reaction.
It took Sydney 15 months to 'graduate' to her now maintenance dose of 8 peanuts per day.
"So if they're eating 8 to 10 peanuts a day, that maintains their tolerance and then that same person again who started out highly allergic to that food, can incorporate it into their diet in a normal way," said Dr. Segal.
He says dozens of allergists are using this protocol out of about 2,000 patients, it has an 85-percent success rate.
The Sonsteins say for them, O.I.T. has been life-changing.
"To simply put what this has done, it's given us freedom," said Amy.
Sydney said, "Now I can go out with my friends and eat whatever I want. I can go to the movies and get whatever popcorn or movies I want, like go out on Halloween and get whatever candy I want which is cool because I could never do that before.
Again this is something that can only be done under close medical supervision.
There are also several clinical trials underway testing similar protocols.
And Doctor Segal is starting to treat other food allergies including allergies to milk, eggs and tree nuts.
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New treatment is helping kids overcome peanut allergies