Jessica Meyrowitz knew something “was going on” with her newborn, Jake. He was “gassy” and “rashy.” Working with his pediatrician, and wondering if allergies were at play, she switched Jake from a dairy-based to a soy-based formula at 3-weeks-of age.
Still the problems persisted. His doctors in northern Virginia explained Jake’s rash as cradle cap or infant acne. When Jake was six-months-old, his mother took him to an allergist, the first of four he’d see over the next two years. All performed skin tests on Jake, who was found to be allergic to eggs as well as milk. So egg and dairy products were assiduously avoided both in Jake's diet and his mother's, who was also breastfeeding him. Still the rashes continued. “We’d kiss him and he’d break out in hives,” says Meyrowitz.
When Jake was 2 ½ a family friend accidentally gave him some peanut-based cereal. He had an anaphylactic reaction: labored breathing, projectile vomiting and hives. When another parent overheard a distressed Meyrowitz tell Jake’s preschool teacher that he had a peanut allergy, she told her to take Jake to Johns Hopkins to see Robert Wood, one of the leading pediatric allergists in the nation. “He’s the best,” she said. “He’ll help you.”
At Hopkins Children’s, Wood performed the first blood tests on Jake, which led to the first precise diagnoses of his specific and complex food allergies and, finally, a comprehensive plan to cope with and to manage them. Wood was the first to diagnose asthma in Jake, too.
“He and his group are so terrific that if we ever move from the area, I’d fly in for Jake’s annual appointments,” says Meyrowitz. “Finally, I’d found the experts who could help my son. It allowed me to stop looking on the Internet for answers. Dr. Wood is extremely thorough and always available to us. We feelunderstood and cared for here.”
Learning that Wood is “on the cutting edge of cures” for food allergies, Meyrowitz enrolled Jake in immunotherapy studies at Hopkins Children’s in which children are gradually exposed to the foods to which they’re allergic to try to improve their resistance. In Jake’s study, small amounts of milk protein were placed under the tongues of children allergic to milk, to help their immune systems “learn” to tolerate the food without triggering an allergic reaction or triggering only mild symptoms. Jake, who was initially allergic to “the tiniest grain” of milk, says his mother, can now tolerate two ounces. “It is nothing short of miraculous,” she says.
Wood, director of Allergy and Immunology at Hopkins Children’s, presented the findings of the milk-drop study, a joint project of Hopkins Children’s and Duke University, at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, February 28.
“This study is truly a gift and we are so grateful that Johns Hopkins is on the cutting edge, looking for answers and finding cures,” says Meyrowitz. “Participating in research is vitally important to me now. It offers something priceless, and that is hope.”
In a related food-allergy study at Johns Hopkins, and also presented by Wood at the annual meeting in February, children with egg allergies who consumed increasingly high doses of egg protein appeared gradually to overcome their allergies.
Learn more about food allergy research at Johns Hopkins.