Health Beat

Health Beat: A pill for food allergies

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Jaime Riskin and her daughter, Gabby, spend a lot of time reading food labels.

"I'm allergic to nuts and shellfish," detailed Gabby.

They found out Gabby had severe food allergies when she was two and her preschool served peanut butter.

"She was covered in hives and her whole face swelled up," explained Jaime.

Experts say food allergies in the United States are on the rise.

"About three percent of children might be at risk of anaphylactic reactions due to food allergies," said Mutasem Rawas-Qalaji, a pharmaceutical researcher at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "The first line of treatment should be epinephrine."

That means families like the Riskins need to keep an EpiPen with them at all times.

"There's always one in her backpack. There's always one in my purse. There's always one at school," Jaime said.

Gabby said she hopes she never needs the life-saving treatment.

"Because it's a needle, and I've always been a little scared of needles," explained Gabby.

So Rawas-Qalaji and his research team at Nova Southeastern University are working on an easier, more user-friendly option.

"Using a tablet, a specialized developed tablet, under the tongue of the patient," Rawas-Qalaji said.

The tablet would deliver the same amount of epinephrine the injection does, minus the needle.

"Once you place these tablets under the tongue, they should disintegrate within 10 seconds," Rawas-Qalaji said.

"I think the pill is an awesome idea," Gabby said.

Until then, Gabby and her mom will keep the EpiPen on hand and always read the ingredients first.

The research team has met with the Food and Drug Administration and the plan is to start human trials in the next two years.

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