New clinical center opens, dedicated to treating children's food allergies

By Kristen Holland Shear / Holidays 2010

North Texas children who have food allergies and their parents now have a unique resource to combat this potentially life-threatening condition. 

A state-of-the-art Food Allergy Center recently opened at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, in partnership with UT Southwestern. The facility is the only academic-affiliated pediatric food allergy center in North Texas and is one of just a few in the nation with staff and resources dedicated specifically to diagnosing, determining the cause of, and treating children’s food allergies. The center is the result of a $2.35 million gift to Children’s from the Robert H. Dedman Jr. Family Foundation, the Robert and Nancy Dedman Foundation, and Mrs. Robert H. Dedman Sr.

Dr. Drew Bird

The facility houses a triage station, consultation rooms, observation rooms and a kitchen dedicated to meal preparation for “food challenges,” in which patients are tested for allergic reactions to various ingredients. A separate area allows for on-site research.

“In cooperation with UT Southwestern, we have a strong commitment to research and have active involvement in numerous studies investigating and understanding treatments for food allergies, management of the overall health of food-allergic patients and developing educational programs for families dealing with food allergies aimed at improving their quality of life,” said Dr. Drew Bird, assistant professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at UT Southwestern and director of the Food Allergy Center at Children’s.

Up to 12 million people in the U.S. — including 6 percent to 8 percent of all children younger than 3 years of age — suffer from food allergies. Each year health professionals at Children’s treat more than 560 children for the condition. Cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts are the most common pediatric food allergies, but wheat, soy, fish and shellfish — including lobster and shrimp — are also culprits.

In addition to seeing patients, Dr. Bird and his team will conduct research and lead community education initiatives aimed at minimizing risks and providing a safe environment for children with food allergies. An online support group for families is also in the works alongside a database of patient and epidemiological information for the shared use of clinicians and researchers at UT Southwestern, Children’s and colleagues elsewhere.