A new breakthrough in treating severe food allergies has parents lining up on wait lists.
Action News Jax’s Paige Kelton shows us how it's saving and changing lives.
Bella Rodono is a happy 8-year-old. But when she was only 1, her mother, Katie made a scary discovery. Bella is severely allergic to peanuts.
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“She started getting red patches on her face, you could tell it irritated her and it was itchy,” Rodono said.
For years, the family avoided peanuts at all costs.
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“It was scary for us. We had to check every label, every single time. Birthday parties, we would have to check to see where the cake was made,” Rodono said.
Dr. Vandana Patel, an allergy specialist, has been treating Bella since she was 2 and said she was the ideal candidate for a breakthrough treatment that could lessen, even potentially eliminate her peanut allergy. It's called oral immunotherapy, or OIT.
“It is training the immune system over time to tolerate small amounts of the allergenic protein,” Patel said.
Doctors actually give the patient tiny fractions of a peanut -- starting with 1/100th -- to test how much they can tolerate without a reaction. But this treatment has to be done under a doctor's care -- because it can have serious complications.
“It was a very small amount of peanut -- 10 milligrams and her throat started to close in the doctor’s office and that was the first time we ever had to give her a EpiPen and it was terrifying,” Rodono said.
Bella's doctors had prepared for that reaction and treated her right away. Every day, Rodono gives her daughter a dose of peanuts at home.
Bella is now what doctors call "bite proof," meaning for her, peanuts no longer carry the threat of a life-threatening reaction.
“Last October, she was able to tolerate 8 peanuts without any reaction,” Rodono said.
“We have a huge waitlist,” Patel said.
Food allergy oral immunotherapy is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but Patel said families are already lining up for it.
“That is the hardest thing. Being able to provide good care, not being able to help people fast enough, but doing it safely,” Patel said.
The treatment gave Bella more freedom to be a kid and her parents greater peace of mind.
“It is worth it. It is 100 percent worth it. It changed her life, it changed all of our lives,” Rodono said.
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