To desensitise young children to their allergy to eggs, physicians from Greece say “let them eat cake.”
Heat modifies certain egg allergens and, in turn, allows some children with egg allergies to be “treated” by feeding them ever-increasing amounts of egg baked in a cake, Dr. George N. Konstantinou and colleagues, at the University of Athens report.
They used this approach to accelerate the development of tolerance to hen’s eggs among 94 boys and girls referred to the food allergy department at the university.
After undergoing 6 months of desensitisation, 90 per cent of the children could tolerate egg baked in a cake, the researchers report in a preliminary, online posting by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
“Parents should be aware that there are novel approaches for handling egg allergy,” said study co-investigator Dr. Nikolaos G. Papadopoulos.
But he cautions not to try this at home. “Children with a known food allergen should be treated under the supervision of a specialised physician,” Papadopoulos told Reuters Health.
The investigators’ treated children 12 to 48 months old. Thirty-nine had skin prick test sensitivity to hen’s eggs and 55 had been diagnosed with hen’s egg allergy after eating egg. Most of the children also had atopic eczema, a chronic scaly or itchy skin rash.
Each child was initially given 0.1 grams of cake that contained 0.63 milligrams of total egg protein. Each subsequent dose tripled the previous amount of egg protein until the children were eating 1.5 grams of total egg protein.
Over 6 months, just 7 of the children still had itching, eczema, or more severe reactions to the baked egg challenge.
The investigators then gave a whole egg to the 87 children who did not react to baked eggs and only 4 reacted with itching or eczema.
These findings suggest that consuming small quantities of baked egg antigen might alter the natural course of egg allergy, the investigators note. They are currently conducting a study to compare this egg allergy desensitisation approach in allergic children who will receive desensitization treatment and those who with receive a “placebo.”