August 30, 2018

Children’s Hospital launches pediatric food allergy clinic

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has launched a new pediatric food allergy clinic.

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has launched a new pediatric food allergy clinic.

Led by Jonathan Hemler, MD, assistant professor of Pediatrics within the Division of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology and Pulmonology, the clinic is held at the Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks campus every Monday. The clinic is a collaboration between Hemler, dietitian Nancy Cranford, MS, RD, LDN, and a research nurse, who will handle patient recruitment for basic science research projects and work on clinical trials.

Jonathan Hemler, MD

“The clinic is designed to be a multidisciplinary service for patients who have food allergies. When families are dealing with food allergies there are a lot of questions about nutrition, reading food labels and alternative foods patients can choose for their new dietary needs,” said Hemler, director of the program. “There also is no cure for food allergies, so there is potential for patients to participate in research and future clinical trials, making it a unique and specialized clinic experience for them.”

An estimated one in 13 children is affected by food allergies — about two children in every classroom. A food allergy is a medical condition in which exposure to certain foods trigger a harmful immune response, which can range from mild (itchiness, hives) to severe or life-threatening (difficulty breathing, throat tightening).

Coinciding with the new clinic, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) announced last week that Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital have been named a Center of Excellence and have joined the FARE Clinical Network — a food allergy research collaborative comprised of 31 leading research and clinical care facilities across the country.

The FARE Clinical Network seeks to accelerate the development of effective approaches to food allergy treatment while improving the quality of patient care for this potentially life-threatening disease that affects 15 million Americans.

“We are very excited to join the FARE Clinical Network,” Hemler said. “Our multidisciplinary team here at Vanderbilt provides outstanding care to both children and adults with food allergies. Now, thanks to our membership in the Clinical Network, we can provide access to cutting-edge research and clinical trials for our patients in Tennessee and surrounding states.”

As food allergies have become a growing issue among children and adults, the research community has recognized a significant need for more studies to understand how to treat and prevent them. The prevalence of food allergies among children increased by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Since there isn’t a cure for food allergies, avoidance is the most effective management tool to prevent a reaction, and if a severe reaction does occur, the treatment is to administer injectable epinephrine and seek immediate medical attention.

While more than 170 foods are known to cause allergic reactions, the most common are known as the Top 8 — milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, soy and wheat. The number of children with peanut and tree nut allergies tripled between 1997 and 2008.