Cleveland Clinic has opened the first food allergy center in northern Ohio. The Cleveland Clinic Food Allergy Center of Excellence (FACE) will offer comprehensive, individualized care to adult and pediatric patients with food allergies. The center features a multidisciplinary team consisting of allergists, pediatric psychologists and registered dieticians who work collaboratively to prevent, diagnose, study and treat food allergies and diseases caused by reactions to food, while also conducting research related to food allergies.
The center will be located at the Cleveland Clinic Strongsville Family Health Center. The 2,400-square-foot center will feature a large, interactive observation space that includes video gaming for patients undergoing food challenge tests to determine or confirm a suspected allergy, which can take several hours. The FACE providers will also soon offer services at other Cleveland Clinic locations, as well as virtual appointments. Food allergy experts will also take part in community outreach, with the center being a hub for allergy education initiatives.
The center will offer cutting-edge therapy, including oral immunotherapy for properly selected patients with certain allergies. Oral immunotherapy involves slowly exposing a patient to the allergen, beginning at very low amounts and working up to a target dose. For those with certain food allergies, this could allow the patient to tolerate small doses, providing some protection in the case of accidental exposure. Oral immunotherapy can also be used as a way to prevent allergies in carefully selected patients that are at high risk for them.
Providers in the center will also be targeting infants and children at high risk for developing food allergies with early introduction therapies
“Until recently, all we could offer our patients and families with food allergies was avoidance,” said Sandra Hong, M.D., director of the Food Allergy Center of Excellence. “However, oral immunotherapy has ushered in a new era for food allergy patients. We are excited to be able to offer this therapy to carefully selected patients who can benefit from it as a treatment or prevention strategy.”
The center is equipped to care for the multifaceted needs of patients with food allergies. Frequently, these patients have additional allergic diseases including allergic rhinitis, eczema and asthma. Patients or family members also often suffer from anxiety, isolation and bullying due to their allergies.
“Food allergies affect many aspects of a patient’s life – far more than just their diet,” said Jaclyn Bjelac, M.D., associate director of the Food Allergy Center of Excellence. “That’s why the center is designed to care for the whole patient and their loved ones. We want them to feel prepared and confident about their futures.”
In addition, providers at the FACE will care for patients with disease processes which can be associated with foods such as eczema, eosinophilic esophagitis, food protein proctocolitis, and food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome.
An estimated 32 million people in the United States have food allergies, including approximately 8% of children. The CDC reports that prevalence of food allergies among children increased 50% between 1997 and 2011.