Panama City - Seasonal allergies effect more people than ever before, and food allergies, which can be deadly, are also on the rise. So what's going on? NewsChannel 7's Donna Bell takes a closer look at the allergy mystery.
The medical term for allergy is "atopy"... which comes from a Greek word meaning "strange disease." And in fact, the medical world may only be scratching the surface, when it comes to understanding, and treating, allergies.
Allergies are nothing to sneeze at. Just ask mom Kara Bradley. Her daughters Rebecca and Rachel can have a life threatening reaction to foods like milk, eggs, and nuts. "Even just touching her causes severe allergic reactions so its frightening to think what would happen if she ingested it," said Kara.
Kara decided to home school her daughters, mainly because of their severe multiple allergies. "I knew I would sit by the phone all day waiting for a call saying they had some kind of allergic reaction so that was a big factor for me." And Kara's not alone. Pediatric allergies are increasing at an alarming rate... up almost twenty percent over the past decade.
The Centers for Disease Control reports three million children have food or digestive allergies. Researchers just can't figure out why.
"It's always been strange, its always been a mystery, and part of that's because its an immunological process and we're just really still learning alot about it." Dr. Geeta Khare of Panama City's Asthma and Allergy Clinic says seasonal allergies are easier to treat, with medications and immunotherapy, but that's not the case with food allergies. "Right now we have avoidance and treatment after the fact," said Dr. Khare.
When you step inside the home of a family that has food allergies, the pantry looks quite different. Instead of regular cereal you find puffed millet cereal, instead of peanut butter, how about Sunbutter? And you have to be so careful because one tiny bite of something they're allergic to, can mean they need a shot of Epinephrine. "Epinepherine is a potentially life saving treatment, but it is an injection,and very often patients and providers are intimidated," said Dr. Khare.
That intimidation is something Kara had to get over, and she makes sure everyone around her children knows how to use an Epipen.
"I go and talk with the parents, are you ok with this? show them the Epipen, are you OK with this?" They don't want to be the parent who makes your child sick."
Could allergies be making kids sick in other ways too? That's a question currently being researched. "I think we're going to be linking allergies into more organ systems if you will...and its an exciting area, an area to look at. There's definitely talk about an immune component, children with autism have more allergies,what we don't know is, is one thing causing the other? Or do they just travel together?"
For now, there are more questions than answers, but there's also hope of finding better treatment for allergies, and maybe even a cure. Right now there are human trials underway at research facilities, trying to desensitize people with food allergies. There are also studies taking place, trying to understand the effects of allergies on the stomach, brain, and nervous system.
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