Yes, they're afflicting more kids than ever--but our awareness and treatment options have also leaped exponentially in recent years. See how far we've come, and how the latest therapies are helping children beat their allergies at last.
Five years ago, Noah Schaffer's food allergies were so severe that even one tenth of a peanut could endanger his life. His parents worried about unseen peanut slivers making their way into snacks at friends' houses or restaurant meals. "You're in constant fear when your child is in someone else's care that they'll accidentally give him peanuts and not know what to do," says his mom, Robyn Smith, of Cary, NC.
But last summer, for the first time in his life, Noah ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The now 10-year-old has become one of only a handful of kids to be successfully treated--experts still hesitate to say cured--for his food allergies, thanks to a promising experimental trial his parents enrolled him in at Duke University Medical Center. At the end, the sandwich--eaten in the company of nervous parents and nurses at the ready--was given to him as a test to see whether his allergies had truly been tamed. His only reaction? He despised--really despised--the taste and feel of peanut butter in his mouth. But his immune system remained calm. His parents were elated. "So much burden has been lifted from me and the family," says Smith. Her son even goes to summer camp now without his EpiPen--the injection of epinephrine that can rescue him from a life-threatening reaction.