Utah doctor takes new approach to food allergies

MURRAY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) - For someone living with food allergies the tiniest exposure could mean a trip to the hospital, or it could even cost them their life. For parents of children with allergies it impacts everything they do.

But as Good 4 Utah’s Robin Saville shows us there is one Utah doctor who is taking a different approach to treating food allergies.

“Life before treatment with Ethan was really scary. With food allergies you just never know when a reaction is going to occur,” said Michelle Horne.

For the Horne family living with two children with food allergies has been difficult and they've been living with it since their oldest son Ethan was just 2-years-old.

“He had an anaphylactic reaction to just some mixed nuts and we had no idea. As we were driving him to the urgent care he stopped breathing in our car,” said Horne.

Allergies have caused Ethan problems for years and it wasn't just the physical reactions. The isolation was hard too.

“He was sitting at his own table for every single snack time regardless if there was peanut butter involved or not. The teacher would be afraid to give him certain snacks so he would come home and he would cry and that he didn't want to go back to school,” said Horne.

According to foodallergy.org 15 million Americans have a food allergy. That's 1 in every 13 children in the United States and 70,000 Utah children. Now one Utah doctor is offering hope to thousands of kids.

“We're seeing outstanding results. Most of our patients that we have enrolled in this program have been able to...within six months consume a food that was once life threatening to them,” said Dr. Jones with Rocky Mountain Allergy Clinic.

So how does the doctor do it? By feeding his patients the very foods that make them sick.

“We start off with a very small minute dose of whatever they are allergic to and at a very deliberate calculated schedule we slowly increase that dose over time,” said Jones.

Jones says by increasing the dose over time the body develops a natural tolerance to the food that caused the allergy.

“Within six months we can take somebody who would have a life threatening reaction to either milk, eggs, or peanut or wheat or soy, we can take them from a situation to where that would be life threatening to them, to where now they can consume it without any kind of restrictions,” said Jones.

For mom, the treatment was terrifying.

“When you've seen you child stop breathing because they ate that peanut or ate that cashew, giving it to them on purpose is very scary,” said Horne.

That fear now gives this family a little piece of mind.

“We've always tried to keep his life as normal as possible, but now I feel like we can really do that for him.” said Horne.

Just like her brother Emma is making progress and that's exactly why Dr. Jones started this program.

“Really the patients [are] what make me passionate about this subject because they are so desperate. They struggle so much with having to avoid, avoid, avoid and they live in fear and they have a lot of anxiety,” said Jones.

The program must be under the guidance of a doctor. Jones emphasizes the importance of not trying this on your own.

“There is no way this should be done at home on your own. It could be extremely dangerous and very detrimental. It could be life threatening,” said Jones.

“You’re so desperate to be able to give your child a normal life. I never thought there would be anything like this and I am so grateful that there is,” said Horne.

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