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Sunday Profile / David D'Agostino 'Ambassador,' 9, talks of allergies

David D'Agostino, an Elmwood Franklin School student, was recently in Washington, D.C, where he was a New York representative at the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network Kids' Congress on Capitol Hill.

"The trip was fun," comments David, 9, of Williamsville. "I learned a lot about history. I learned about the three branches of government, and about how a bill becomes a law. Hopefully our bill about food allergies will be made into a law."

David is allergic to milk and milk-products.

"Up until three years ago I was a healthy kid," recalls David, a fourth grader whose winning essay on food allergies earned him a title of junior ambassador for the allergy network. He was joined in Washington by another local student, Kate Chiavetta, 10, of Orchard Park.

David and Kate represented "millions of children with food allergies nationwide," says Anne Muoz-Furlong, founder of the allergy network.

Before he was diagnosed, David says, he had severe cramping, pain and stomachaches. Many doctor visits later, he was diagnosed with allergic gastroenteritis at age 6.

"I'm not able to eat the school lunches as the other kids do," David says. "I can't have pizza, cake, or ice cream at birthday parties. When I go to a restaurant, there are very few things I can have. When I go to a friend's house, I need to bring my own food."

Food allergies have affected his life in another way.

David's 4-year-old brother, Carlton Alsheimer, has life-threatening allergies to eggs, peanuts, fish and nuts -- as well as milk.

"He'll be coming to my school next year, and I worry about his safety. I'll have to watch him carefully," David says.

It's estimated that between 150 and 200 people die each year from anaphylaxis to food -- young adults as well as children. Recently a 15-year-old girl in Quebec died after kissing her boyfriend, who had just eaten a peanut-butter sandwich.

There's no cure for this kind of allergy occurring when the immune system mistakenly registers a certain food as harmful. Strict avoidance of allergy-causing items is the only way to prevent a reaction.

David is among those asking Congress to support allergy research.

"We need research to find treatment or even a cure for food allergies," the youngster explains..

Kate Chiavetta, a fifth-grader at South Davis Elementary School in Orchard Park, also is determined to not let the allergies keep her from many activities.

Like David, Kate manages her allergies. She has also done a lot to teach others about food allergies. Since first grade, the youngster has been giving presentations to her classes about food allergies. She tells kids what happens when someone has an allergic reaction, which foods she can't have and what to do if she has a reaction.

Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile or a neighborhood issue worth exploring? E-mail: lcontinelli@buffnews.com or write to Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240.

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