Discovering the Whys and Hows of Food Allergies

Discovering the Whys and Hows of Food Allergies

Jennie Lyon

Discovering the Whys and Hows of Food Allergies

If you have a child with severe food allergies, you probably know the horror of a particularly bad reaction. There are few things that can make you feel as helpless as watching your child break out in eczema, hives, or suddenly being unable to breath. Why does this happen to some people and not others? We can figure out which foods to avoid, but why do they need to be avoided at all?

We came across an article in The Boston Globe about one mother, after her child had an extreme reaction to milk, decided to do something about it.

The article, "New institute tackles the mysteries of food allergies,"  introduced us to Leslie Solomon, a woman whose son had a terrible allergic reaction during a routine allergy test. One of the only tests that we have for allergies involves exposing a person to a potential allergen and then seeing how they react. This struck Leslie Solomon as somewhat unsophisticated and potentially dangerous.

The article describes how Solomon, who is a specialist in strategic planning and business development, set out to change the allergy testing process. Just over one year later, she is celebrating the opening of the Food Allergy Science Initiative. This Initiative, part of the Broad Institute, is dedicated to researching the causes of allergies to better understand how we can treat them. The hope is that the Initiative will be a springboard to jumpstart allergy research nationwide.

In the article, they explain that getting to this point was not easy. After tapping all of her business contacts, Solomon eventually teamed up with two doctors and one other lawyer, all women who had children with allergies. Together, they have thus far raised $10 million. Their idea for this project was at first met with skepticism because of its scale and ambition, but they soon started to win over converts. They spearheaded a symposium on food allergies that was attended by over ninety scientists, and this snowballed into the idea for the Initiative. Six research scientists, all from different medical disciplines, are now on the project full time.

Even with this new Initiative, research into allergies lags heavily behind other childhood afflictions. While The National Institutes of Health dedicates $100 per patient with autism and $10 per patient with asthma, they only spend $3 per patients with severe allergies. This really needs to change. There’s been a steep increase in the amount and severity of allergies in children over the past few years. With many millions of kids suffering, and many more projected to in the future, new research into the root cause of allergies has become an essential part of the future of pediatric healthcare.

While hopes are high for the Initiative, treatments for allergies are still mostly limited to antihistamines and, in the case of potentially deadly reactions, EpiPens.

If you have a child who suffers from allergies, discovering their triggers is essential to their safety. With the help of your doctor, most allergy tests can be done safely with minimal risk. Remember that children can grow out of allergies, or they could develop additional allergies as they get older. Stay vigilant and teach your child about their triggers and what to do if they are exposed. Remember that, with proper management, there is no reason that they can’t grow up just as happy and healthy as their peers!


Freyer, Felice J. "New institute tackles the mysteries of food allergies." <>. The Boston Globe. The Boston Globe, 24 June 2016. Web. 26 June 2016.

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