TRANSFORMATION: Catherine Sly with seven-year-old daughter Zalia. Together they travelled to the United States earlier this year for Zalia to undertake oral immunotherapy, which isn't offered in Australia.
TRANSFORMATION: Catherine Sly with seven-year-old daughter Zalia. Together they travelled to the United States earlier this year for Zalia to undertake oral immunotherapy, which isn't offered in Australia. Cordell Richardson

Parents push for life-changing allergy treatment

YOUNG Zalia Sly is living proof of how a revolutionary treatment for life-threatening allergies has transformed everything for her and her family.

The seven-year-old Camira girl travelled with her mother Catherine to the United States in April at great expense to undertake oral immunotherapy (OIT), which isn't offered in Australia.

Zalia is allergic to peanuts, eggs and milk and the treatment slowly desensitises patients by introducing minuscule amounts of the food they are allergic to.

She has carried on her treatment through a carefully controlled program back home and now eats two peanuts a day, which previously would have been disastrous.

Even a small trace of peanuts would have sent her into anaphylactic shock in the past but almost six months on from starting the treatment she is safe from accidental contamination.

At the age of four, she was rushed to hospital in the "scariest moment" of her mum's life.

"She's doing so well," Catherine said.

"We've done all of the updates that (Dr Ruchir Agrawal) has planned out for us. There's been no reactions.

"(Previously) she would have reacted to one or two grams, a minute amount. Now the fact that it's an actual peanut we can pick up and give to her is just amazing. Before it would have been something she couldn't even see that was accidentally in a meal that would have given her a reaction."

The Slys are just one family from across Australia throwing their support behind a petition calling on the Federal Government to fund a Australian trial of OIT.

It comes after the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport began an inquiry into allergies and anaphylaxis, which will include exploring developments in "emerging treatments" such as OIT.

More than 4500 have already signed the petition since it launched last week and it closes on October 16.

"Our doctors are very hesitant to take it on because there's no research papers saying 'yes this is safe' even though doctors overseas are doing it and it's working fantastically," Mrs Sly said.

"They need a tick of approval.

"My life and my husband's life and therefore Zalia's life is just so much more relaxed. She can go to school and touch somebody's hand and there's no reaction from that. We can go out to a restaurant and not wipe down the whole table and the chairs.

"I would really love to bring that peace of mind to other parents as well so they know their child is at a safer place without having that massive cost and disruption to their life of going overseas to get it."

In total, the trip cost the Slys $24,000 including $5550 for treatment at the Freedom Allergy clinic in Peachtree City, Georgia, as well as flights, travel, food and accommodation.

"There's been a psychological and emotional benefit of (Zalia) being like everybody else and not having it pointed out that you're different in every situation you come across," Mrs Sly said.

"It's given her so much more confidence. She feels a part of everything rather than being that different kid."

We shouldn't have to travel outside Australia for treatment

OUR children need relief and it's not coming unless we actively look for new solutions.

That's the message from Melissa Mooney, who started the petition which is calling on the Federal Government to establish a oral immunotherapy (OIT) trial.

Based near Geelong in Victoria, Mrs Mooney's son Jacob is allergic to milk, wheat, eggs and peanuts and she runs the Food Allergy Goals Facebook page.

About 10 per cent of children aged under one year have a proven food allergy

"There are a lot of people who want access to (OIT) and a lot of people who are either upending their lives in order to try and get it overseas or in a position where as much as they would to do that they can't," she said.

"The normal sources of funding aren't really available because of the unusual nature of the treatment.

"I realised there wasn't really going to be a market for that in Australia unless it was financed through government funding or philanthropy. The first step was to go to government and seek funding and see if we could get a trial up. A group in Canada did exactly that. They had a similar sort of situation where they also had very similar clinical trials but they could see that it wasn't coming any time soon.

"With funding from the government we could get members of the medical profession who would be on board to start to trial it."

To sign the petition visit here.



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