Dr. Molis: Fighting food allergies since 2011, CBS affiiate, KCCI, IA

Dr. Molis: Controversial treatment fights food allergies

 UPDATED 6:45 AM CST Nov 15, 2012, CBS affiliate KCCI

DES MOINES, Iowa —The number of children with severe food allergies, specifically to peanuts, has grown exponentially in the past few years, but an Iowa doctor may be able to help.

Doctors said it is the result of genetics and other unknown factors.

Seven-year-old Jacob Hamling suffered from severe peanut allergies. If even a morsel of a peanut got near him he would usually end up in the emergency room.

“Within seconds his lips were swollen. He was complaining that he couldn’t swallow. He has hives all over his face, and down his back,” said Jacob’s mother, Allison Hamling.

Jacob is not the only one. Will Ecklund, 10, also suffered from peanut allergies. He said the food allergy took over his life.

Ecklund was unable to attend birthday parties or sit with his friends at lunch.

“I would blow up in hives. I couldn’t really breathe that well,” said Ecklund.

Des Moines allergist, Dr. Whitney Molis, said she knew there had to be a way to help patients like Jacob Hamling and Will Ecklund.

“These patients get petrified to go anywhere. They can’t go out to eat. They are not invited to peoples’ houses because the other parents are scared to have them over,” said Molis.

Molis began using oral food desensitization treatment in May 2011. She is one of only a handful of doctors in the Midwest, and one of only a handful in the country, to use the treatment.

“What we do is try to get small amounts of food into the patient’s body, and then build that up over time to create tolerance or a desensitized state,” said Molis.

The first dose is a 250-thousandth of a peanut in liquid form. Weeks later, the patients move to a very-diluted peanut flour sprinkled over food, and then eventually eat actual peanuts.

“We had told him his entire life that he would die if he ate a peanut, and then you hand him a peanut and you say eat it,” said Hamling.

The Oral Food Desensitization treatment is controversial and potentially dangerous. Other doctors have refrained from trying it because they say there is not enough research behind it.

However, Molis said she has had a 100-percent success rate in helping her patients create a tolerance to peanuts.

She said each patient is different, and some have to take the treatment slower than others.

“We adjust the doses depending on how they are doing. They are designed to be very, very slow and very, very cautious,” said Molis.

The program takes about six months, and patients visit Molis weekly to increase their peanut doses. At the end of the treatment each patient gets a graduation certificate and some kind of peanut treat.

“That’s the amazing thing about the immune system, is that if you get the right dose, and the right timing, you can desensitize theoretically anyone to anything,” said Molis.

Each patient has to eat around 20 peanuts a day for the rest of their life in order to keep the tolerance. Both the Hamling and Ecklund familes said the treatment has changed their lives.

“He went to his first birthday party ever alone last week with a mom or a dad there, and that has never happened,” said Allison Hamling.

“How it’s impacted our family and his life — to see that be available to other parents and other kids that have got similar allergies, I mean, to me it’s something that everybody should check into,” said Will’s father, Doug Ecklund.

See full story and news video here on the KCCI website

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