Dr. Randhawa: New Food Allergy Center at Miller’s Children’s Hospital; Press Telegram News, 2013

New Food Allergy Center at Miller’s Children’s Hospital tol focus on growing number of young patients
By Joe Segura Staff Writer, joe.segura@presstelegram.com, @JoeSeguraPT on Twitter, 06/08/13

LONG BEACH >> Milk, eggs, wheat, soy, tree nuts and peanuts — it’s not a grocery list, but a partial recipe for danger awaiting unsuspecting youngsters with food allergies.

Concern over the medical problem — one that has plagued a growing number of youths — has resulted in a new specialized pediatric Food Allergy Center at Miller’s Children Hospital, the first to provide evaluation and treatment in Southern California.

Recent studies have shown that nearly one in 20 young children under the age of 5 are allergic to at least one type of food. The new center is already booked with pediatric patients through September, hospital officials said.

Matthew Gallegos, an 8-year-old Rossmoor resident, has had difficult allergic episodes since he was about 3 months old, according to his father, John Gallegos. The family’s focus on their child’s problems led to their financial support of the new center.

The Gallegos’ ordeal was aggravated by many failed attempts to diagnose Matthew’s medical maladies. The tormented newborn was bloated, slept very little and would tear at his skin, the father recalled.

At first, doctors could not pinpoint the problem, John Gallegos said, but an Eastern medicine practitioner diagnosed the problem as being linked to toxic compounds building inside his small body.

With the infant’s problem finally diagnosed, his mother, Palma Gallegos, dieted, so that her milk would not harm her son through breast feeding.

As the parents worked more aggressively with food allergists, Matthew got better. However, the couple became convinced that there is a need for a more comprehensive way of coping with food allergies.

“I’m sure there are a lot of parents who don’t know where to start,” John Gallegos said, adding that the family’s experience has been a series of trials and errors. “That’s frustrating.”

The Gallegos’ education about the seriousness of food allergies led to their decision to fund the new Food Allergy Center, which opened its doors this week.

They wanted to ensure that other families didn’t go through those same struggles.

“It was really frustrating to find an accurate diagnosis for our son, let alone a solution,” said Palma Gallegos. “We want there to be a more comprehensive solution for parents and their children.”

The new Food Allergy Center provides a wide-array of food allergy specialty care, including skin testing, atopy patch testing, oral food challenges, sublingual immunotherapy and oral immunotherapy — a treatment that introduces a specific amount of food allergen to a patient over a six- to eight-month time span in escalating doses in order to create immune system tolerance and minimize risk for food anaphylaxis.

The new Food Allergy Center is the only hospital in Southern California that offers this method.

“It’s one of only a few centers of its kind in the country,” said Dr. Inderpal Randhawa, medical director of the Food Allergy Center.

“It stands apart nationally as a center that comprehensively incorporates specialty expertise by an allergist/immunologist, gastroenterologist and a registered dietitian in the same visit,” the director said. “The staff and physicians are excited about this opportunity to advance the field of food-based diseases.”

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