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The Milk and Egg Section

Trailblazing Kids Desensitize to Dairy Allergy

Although Josh has several other food allergies – eggs, nuts, peanuts, fish and peas – Stephanie Wanner was relieved, even in the early going, that her son was suddenly protected against trace exposures to dairy products. Recently, Josh completed the desensitization therapy, and is continuing on a maintenace level of at least 200 millilitres (just under a cup) of milk every day.

Wanner finds it an “absolute joy” to see her son included at food-centric events like birthday parties. Dairy tolerance has also eased grocery shopping frustrations. For the past five years, she has been shopping at five different grocery stores to find bread, margarine and soy products that don’t have dairy “may contain” warnings on the label. That level of absolute avoidance, “makes you crazy,” she says.

Ethan Johnston has also finished his course of milk treatment, which took seven months, and this graduation of sorts has changed his relationship with dairy, likely forever. He regularly eats products containing dairy, and drinks a daily milk dose of about 200 millilitres, usually in a milkshake.

“Desensitization has made a huge, huge difference in our lives,” Kristie Johnston says. “I would totally recommend it for anybody it’s safe for.” Gone are the days of Johnston baking Ethan-safe cupcakes for birthday parties, or grilling the chef about cross-contamination during a family outing to a restaurant.

The milk treatment has also simplified life for the Broad-Bradstreet family. Luke isn’t downing glasses of milk yet, but the half teaspoon that he can consume safely is a huge leap for a kid who ate a Cheezie at nine months – and swelled like he’d been beaten up.

His mother is now comfortable buying products that “may contain” traces of milk. And there are the subtle big steps forward – like being able to eat a cucumber sitting beside a slice of cheese on a plate.

Bradstreet is dreaming of the freedoms greater tolerance could bring. “Wouldn’t it be great if in three years, when Luke is 11- or 12-years-old, we can go on a vacation to DisneyLand? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

Dairy desensitization ended up coming to Edmonton after allergists Carr and Lidman heard about the results of that 2004 study out of Rome. Investigating the research further, they were eager to try milk desensitizing – beginning with child subjects known to be anaphylactic to dairy.

“Those are the patients who need our protection, and this is the only protection we can offer right now,” Carr says. (The only other “treatment” for this allergy is total avoidance of dairy, and carrying an auto-injector for protection.)

In the Italian study, 15 of 21 children who took the milk doses were able to drink 200 millilitres without reacting within six months. Three more could tolerate some milk – which still protected them from small accidental exposures. Almost five years later, 13 of the 21 children remained fully tolerant of dairy.

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