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April 7, 2013

Three peanuts a day keep the doctor away

MORRISONVILLE — Tammy Ellis and Matt Bilow chose to send their son to Seton Academy because the school is close to CVPH Medical Center.

Exposure to foods containing peanut products — or even made in a factory that contained peanut products — could have resulted in little Nick Bilow’s death.

Nick, 6, now eats three Peanut M&Ms a day, as part of a treatment that has changed his life.

SEVERELY ALLERGIC

At age 21/2, Nick had an anaphylactic reaction to a peanut butter cup; Tammy rushed him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with bronchitis, but she knew that was not right.

So she and Matt took him to an allergist who gave Nick his first radioallergosorbent, or RAST, test. The blood test showed he had a peanut allergy at 75 IgE, putting him at a level 5 RAST test rating out of 6.

Tammy said any result higher than 12 IgE means the person is severely allergic.

“I was so scared to feed to him,” she said. 

She researched what was safe and what wasn’t, cleared her cupboards of any foods that might make her son stop breathing.

Those many “illegal foods,” as the family dubbed them, were not allowed in the house.

Fortunately, by law, food labels must say whether the ingredients include peanuts or if the product might have been exposed to peanuts in manufacturing.

At lunchtime at school, Nick said, “I had to sit at the peanut-free table.”

And his mother worried every day while he was out of her sight.

PEANUT FLOUR

Nick’s allergist, Dr. Edward Kent Jr. at Timberlane Allergy and Asthma Associates in South Burlington, told Nick’s family about the peanut desensitization program at the New England Food Allergy Center in West Hartford, Conn.

Tammy very much wanted Nick’s life to be more normal, which wouldn’t happen unless his allergy went away.

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