Paging Dr. Wood

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend a Q&A session with Dr. Robert Wood, director of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Dr. Wood is a leader in the fight against food allergy. He treats some 4000 patients in his practice, heads up a research team dedicated to finding a treatment and cure for food allergies and suffers from a peanut allergy himself.

Dr. Wood knows food allergies.

Dr. Wood answering questions. (photo taken by my cell phone)

At the Q&A, Dr. Wood shared updates on the research his team has been doing and answered questions from many of the 50 or more parents who were in attendance. I learned a lot from the Q&A. Here are a few things I found interesting (and a little disheartening):

  • Boys are twice as likely to develop food allergies as girls.
  • Siblings have an increased chance of developing food allergies, although other factors come into play. (fingers crossed for a girl if we have another child)
  • Food allergies peak between the ages of 1 and 3 whereas environmental allergies peak around ages 5 and 6.
  • Children with food allergies are at increased risk of developing Asthma, which rears its ugly head between the ages of 2 and 3. (we’re in that window)
  • An eczema outbreak can increase a RAST score, the measurement of the severity of the food allergy as determined by a blood test.
  • In Dr. Wood’s opinion, blood tests are a better marker of food allergies than the skin scratch test but it also varies by lab.
  • Milk allergies have worsened. The stats for children who outgrow a milk allergy have changed from 80% by age 5 to 50% by age 12. (not encouraging for baby boy)
  • Milk and eggs lose their potency when heated, which is why some children with those allergies can tolerate baked goods. (maybe he can eat cake one day)
  • Peanuts become more potent when heated.
  • While 90% of peanut oil is safe to consume, peanut oil is the third most likely cause of an allergic reaction. Best to just avoid it.
  • Pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid peanuts. It’s not necessary to avoid the other allergens unless the child is reacting to that food.
  • Chick peas are related to peanuts. (maybe that’s why the toddler broke out when eating hummus)
  • Researchers are trying to determine why food allergies have increased. Some theories include Vitamin D deficiency and increased exposure to follates. (damn those prenatal vitamins)

Disclaimer: I am by no means a medical expert. I’m just a mother to a toddler with food allergies. These are the notes I took while listening to a medical expert. You might want to (and probably should) do your own research to verify this information as it pertains to you.

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  1. Hi – Glad I found your blog. Great notes here, they are very consistent with the facts I remember hearing from him in the Spring in McLean, VA. We’ve met with Dr. Wood for my daughter and he was very helpful, although we were not able to expand her diet any further.

    Maria Hardy
    Loudoun Allergy Network

    • I’m glad you found me, too, so I can check out your site (I’m not too far from Loudoun County). Always great to connect with other food allergy parents. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Thanks for the post. My son has food allergies. He’s 6. I’m back in school so that I can one day study food allergies and try and figure it all out. John’s Hopkins is one of the schools I’m looking at for grad school.

    Have a great day,

    • Good luck with school! I hear great things about Johns Hopkins. I’d love to go back and learn more about nutrition. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Great post! That is so cool that you got to hear him speak. And I am blown away by the peanut oil comment. I’ve read so much saying that peanut oil is ‘safe’ (we still avoid – why take a chance?) but now I’m happy we’ve stuck to our guns.

    and prenatal vitamins?!? i was taking the super mega folic acid pills! ah, crud.

    • I agree. Better safe than sorry. The folate idea is just a theory at this point but an interesting one. As with many things, you have to weigh the good (avoiding birth defects) with the bad (possible food allergies). Thanks for commenting!

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