As a baby, Alex Pritchard was diagnosed with severe food allergies, including eggs, which, as his mother quickly found out, are everywhere.
"It's in everything," said Tammy Pritchard. "Everything from flu shots to meatballs, because you use egg as a binder when you cook."
Because of that, Alex spent most of his life avoiding a wide range of foods. But now, eggs are back on the menu.
"It took a while for him to get to that point, but, you know, his life has completely changed," said Tammy.
What made the difference for Alex was a therapy based on exposure, not avoidance. Dr. David Fleischer is a food allergy expert at National Jewish Health in Denver. He treated Alex with what's known as a "immunotherapy."
First, patients are put through a test developed here called a "food challenge" that tells doctors precisely what foods kids are allergic to. Then, using small doses of powdered food, the idea is to expose children to the foods they're allergic to, little by little, day after day.
"The overall goal is to see if they can actually outgrow their allergies, meaning they can actually develop tolerance over time," said Dr. Fleischer.
Early results show the strategy is working. In the past year, researchers have reported positive results for both egg and peanut allergies, though their results come with a caution.
"We're dealing with food allergens that can be very dangerous. This is not something that can be done at home," said Dr. Fleischer.
But when it is done correctly and monitored closely by a physician, this approach can change lives.
"I think it's a great idea, because kids and adults are going to be exposed to it all the time. I mean, you can't lock yourselves away in a little bubble and not live," said Tammy.
Though they've seen some success, this approach to treating food allergies is still in the early stages, so doctors need more studies to perfect it.
A reminder once again that these tests should not be tried without the guidance of a medical expert.
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