Stories about: John Lee

Taste test

When describing how most kids react to a plate of their least favorite foods, the term melodramatic would be an understatement.

“If I have one more bite of broccoli, I’m going to be sick!”

“Yuck! Spinach again? It makes me gag.”

But for a small portion of kids, these terms aren’t exaggerations; they’re medically accurate statements.

Cameron Ledin is one of those children. The 8-year-old was recently diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), a severe allergic inflammation of the esophagus that causes his body to have terrible reactions to a wide range of foods. When a person with EoE eats, his immune system can mistake certain foods as invaders. This causes white blood cells to attack the throat, and can lead to terrible pain in the stomach, joints and head.

EoE is rare and difficult to diagnose, especially in young children who can’t clearly express what they’re feeling. Complicating things even more, EoE symptoms often change over time, or won’t occur for hours or days after the person has been exposed to a trigger food, making it hard to pinpoint exactly what caused an inflammation. With so many variables involved, differentiating EoE from other food allergies or gastrointestinal issues is very tricky.

In Cameron’s case, proper diagnosis took years of testing.

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Could sucking on babies’ pacifiers keep allergies from developing?

Researchers in Sweden recently published a small study showing that children whose moms and dads placed the children’s pacifiers in their own mouths before giving it to the child—sharing some of their oral bacteria—were less likely to develop allergies like eczema and asthma later in life.

The study’s smaller size suggests that more research is needed before a link between pacifier “sharing” and reduced allergy risk can be proven, but the findings do add to a growing body of research that suggests bringing up children in a hyper-clean environment may not be the healthiest way to raise them.

“Western culture is becoming an increasingly sterile environment, but that might not be ideal for young children as their immune systems develop,” says John Lee, MD, director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Food Allergy Clinic. “Their bodies need to learn what to attack and what to ignore. But if they’re exposed to too few, or the wrong kinds of germs, it can hinder development, sometimes confusing the immune system into attacking nonthreatening entities like pollen or food, which is what causes allergies.”

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