Editor's note: Mireille Schwartz is the founder and executive director of the Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board, an organization that promotes education and awareness, and provides no-cost medical care and medication to San Francisco Bay Area families with severely allergic children. She is the author of "The Family Food Allergy Book."
Food allergies are on the rise, and are currently the fifth leading chronic illness in the United States.
Since the mid-1990s, food allergies have shifted into high gear; what used to be a relative rarity has become increasingly commonplace, with scientists estimating that the problem is getting worse.
When you live in fear of you or your child accidentally ingesting peanut crumbs, any hope of undoing severe food allergy is welcome.
A large clinical trial published this week in the Lancet confirms what smaller studies have shown in the past: Oral immunotherapy - swallowing tiny, increasing amounts of peanut over time - has the ability to desensitize allergic individuals to peanuts.
Peanuts are one of the leading causes of food allergy reaction, and 400,000 school-aged children in the United States have this allergy, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Symptoms may occur from any contact with the peanut protein, which is why cross-contamination of foods can be very dangerous.
In kindergarten, Owen Kellogg came home sobbing one day because another boy at school had told him that he had a peanut, and that he was going to force Owen to eat it.
Owen, now 7, is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, said his mother, Haylee Kellogg of Cedar Hills, Utah. In reality, the taunting boy did not have a peanut, but Owen didn't know that - he just knew that eating a peanut could make him stop breathing.
Elizabeth Gordon is the author of 'The Complete Allergy-Free Comfort Foods Cookbook and Allergy-Free Desserts'. She was diagnosed with multiple food allergies in 2007 after the birth of her first child and decided to combine her social work background with her love of the culinary arts to help people just like her. She cooks up new treats, weekly, on her blog allergyfreedelights.com
The United States is home to 9 million adults and 6 million children coping with food allergies ranging from annoying rashes to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Millions of other families are taking note of government-funded initiatives like Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move project and reaching for less processed and more natural fare.
While healthy and safe eating is the common denominator between these groups, there is likely another: sticker shock when the checkout person hands over the grocery receipt.