Oral immunotherapy (OIT) is a food allergy treatment that builds a patient’s tolerance to a food allergen through gradual exposure. Also known as food desensitization, the treatment requires the consumption of the allergen, such as peanuts or eggs, in slowly increasing doses. Through manageable exposure to the allergen, the threshold required to trigger an allergic reaction is raised. So just how does OIT work – and can it benefit Atlanta-area children with food allergies?
What Is the Oral Immunotherapy Process?
Your allergist will conduct food allergy testing before the OIT process can begin. This stage involves analysis of your or your child’s medical history, along with skin or blood testing. When the precise problem-causing allergen has been identified, patients can begin therapy.
The initial dosing stage takes place at your allergist’s office. Patients receive small amounts of the food allergen under careful supervision. Commonly, the allergens used in OIT are peanuts, tree nuts, milk or eggs. This first stage ensures it is safe for the individual to continue consuming doses.
The updosing phase involves patients receiving doses at gradually increasing levels. Over a time span of approximately six to nine months, the amount of food is raised carefully to avoid severe allergic reactions. This stage helps build a tolerance and ensure that accidental exposure to the allergen will not result in anaphylaxis. One common difference between immunotherapy and oral immunotherapy is the length of this build-up phase, though some OIT patients can become desensitized more quickly.
After reaching the maintenance stage, patients are considered to be desensitized to the allergen. In practice this means that there is little chance that eating modest amounts of the food will result in an allergic reaction. However, patients must continue consuming a maintenance dose to ensure that desensitization stays strong. This phase can last months or even years, and patients should still carry an epinephrine auto-injector for emergencies.
How Successful Is Oral Immunotherapy?
There are various studies into OIT and its effectiveness in reducing allergic reactions. Data from a study indicated that 88% of children ages 6–17 were able to consume eggs after 18 months of desensitization treatment. In a further study, 243 out of 270 patients reached a maintenance dose of 300 mg of peanut protein, while trials also revealed successful outcomes for many patients with milk allergies. Ultimately, for patients with peanut, tree nut, milk and egg allergies, OIT is likely to offer considerable benefits if your allergist determines it is safe to proceed with treatment.
Professional Oral Immunotherapy Treatment in the Atlanta Area
Chacko Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Center offers reliable OIT to adults and children with food allergies. Dr. Chacko diagnoses and treats patients from centers in Alpharetta, Atlanta, Canton, Cumming, Duluth and Johns Creek. For assistance, call (678) 668-4688 or request an appointment today.