Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Allergy Buster: Can a Radical New Treatment Save Children With Severe Food Allergies?

Thernstrom, Melanie. "Can a Radical New Treatment Save Children With Severe Food
Allergies?" The New York Times.7 Mar. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2013. <>.
Kim Yates Grosso is the mother of a girl named Tessa who has very severe allergies to milk, wheat, eggs, nuts, shellfish, and other foods. Her allergies are so serious that if she gets a drop of milk on her skin she will go into anaphylactic shock, an allergic-immune response that causes tissues in the body to swell until the windpipe closes, the lungs collapse, and the heart fails. Kim had a strict diet for Tessa that the whole family followed, but she decided it wasn’t fair, so only Kim and Tessa kept to the diet. Lunches were made from complete scratch and Tessa never spent the night at friends houses and didn’t like going to birthday parties because she felt unsafe. Kim got a job at the Menlo Park, California, school district so she could shadow Tessa throughout the day. Tessa came very close to dying due to her allergies in 2011 when she was seven years old because of rye toast and spring rolls that turned out to have traces of wheat. Instead of having hives, her body internally shuts down. A week later, Tessa began having panic attacks and stopped eating because she was so afraid of dying. Psychiatrists did not work and treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorders such as germ phobia was useless because the invisible traces can kill a severely allergic child. Kim realized that her daughter was not the only person with serious allergies.  However, Kari Nadeau, an M.D./Ph.D. and an associate professor of allergies and immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, was giving a lecture at Stanford in 2009 that Kim heard about. She told Kim to continue strictly avoiding the foods Tessa is allergic to. However, Tessa’s case does not show much hope because her blood work showed high quantities of an immune protein called IgE, which is used to show how severe allergic responses are.
          The rate of food allergies has more than doubles over the last decade, with an estimated 5.9 million children and 2.3 million adults in the US. That is 1 in 13 children in every classroom, and this number may rise. Allergies are most common in three to five year olds, or nearly 1 in 10 preschoolers. Children don’t seem to be growing out of their allergies as fast as they have in the past. If Dr. Nadeau and other doctors can find a way to treat and overcome allergies, it will save many lives because many people die from allergic reactions when they do not know that they are coming in contact with small traces of whatever sets off a reaction. I do not personally have any allergies, but I know that when someone has allergies as severely as Tessa does, it is hard to relax, and you don’t get to have the same experiences as other children your age. If the method that Dr. Kari Nadeau is working on is constantly successful, other children with allergies can have more normal lives and kids with extremely severe allergies might be able to make their allergies less severe.
            I did not like how the title of this article made it sound like the article would say some examples of kids with allergies being cured and how only avoiding the foods that caused allergic reactions would help, especially because there are a few photos on the side that implies that a few kids have overcome their allergies. Another thing I did not like was that most of the article was about Tessa, with only the last two paragraphs out of seven about allergies in general and treating them. Otherwise Melanie Thernstrom did a very good job writing this article, describing the severity of Tessa’s allergies, and giving details of how the family coped with it.


  1. One aspect that Hilary presented well in the review is that she gave a very specific analysis of the story. From reading this review I had a clear understanding of how severe Tessa's allergies were, and the story of her almost dying was very detailed. Another aspect that she did well was giving her opinion on the situation. I liked that even though Hilary does not have a personal connection with allergies she managed to connect it with other children, and their situations. The last aspect that Hilary did well is that when she stated her statistics it was clear to the reader, and not confusing as some statistics can be. These statistics in Hilary's review are important because it gives the reader an outlook on children other than just Tessa. One thing that I found interesting from reading this review is Tessa's story. I was shocked to hear how severe someone allergies can be and especially that Tessa was not alone. Another thing that I found interesting is that one child out of thirteen in classroom is most likely to have allergies. I found this interesting because I was unaware how common severe allergies are. Hilary did a great job on this review, but one thing she could do better is give a little bit more analysis on other children rather than just Tessa.

  2. Hilary had a really well written summary of this article. Something that she did really well in this, is that she gave really specific details that were mentioned in the article, such as the story she mentioned where Tessa nearly died, which really put into perspective how dangerous her allergies were. It helped me as a reader, to understand allergies and the difficulties living with them. Hilary also did a good job with this, because she gave exact statistics about allergies, so we were able to understand how they are a growing problem in the country. Another thing that Hilary did really well, was that she really explained what it is like living with allergies, because she talked about how it is hard for this girl Tessa to relax, because it is something that she constantly has to worry about during the day. I was surprised to learn in this summary, how much more common allergies have become throughout the country, I wasn't aware that they affected that many people. I was also impressed by the fact that people can grow out of their allergies, because that is not something that I was aware of before reading this. One thing that could have been done better, was that Hilary could have talked a little bit about how the severity of allergies differ, because Tessa's case was a very severe case of allergies. Otherwise, Hilary did a really great job with this report.