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Atlanta’s Oral Immunotherapy Treatment Center
Until recently, avoiding an allergenic food was the only practical option for patients with a food allergy like Peanut allergies. However, even the most careful patients with food allergies feared reactions caused by eating contaminated or mislabeled food. Now, scientists have devised a treatment that can enable patients to eat the food they’re allergic to without fear of a reaction. It’s called “oral immunotherapy” or “oral desensitization”.
In oral immunotherapy, the patient, with their doctor’s help, basically “teaches” their immune system to tolerate a food it over-reacts to. They eat the food in small but increasing amounts to re-introduce it to their system without causing a reaction.
Since food allergies can be lethal, only a Board-Certified Allergist should administer oral immunotherapy. The initial treatment should only be administered in a hospital or medical center – not at the patient’s home. Oral immunotherapy does carry some risks, most notably anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction. It is, therefore, a treatment that should be used only after a thorough discussion with the Allergist.
What Does Oral Immunotherapy Treatment Involve?
Oral immunotherapy takes time. The procedure begins with a “desensitization day” during which the patient is given doses of very dilute versions of the allergen over a seven-hour period. These doses prepare the patient’s immune system to accept dilute preparations of the allergen twice a day at home. The allergist increases the strength of the doses every week over a six-month period. Eventually, the patient reaches their “maintenance dose,” at which point they can tolerate the allergen and no longer fear the possibility of accidentally eating it. They are also less susceptible to anaphylaxis.
When carefully and successfully done, oral immunotherapy can change a patient’s life for the better. It lets patients enjoy the food they had once been allergic to. Even people who have multiple allergies can be helped – but the allergies must be treated one at a time.
What Food Allergies Does Desensitization Treat?
While research investigating food allergy desensitization continues, today Dr. Chacko uses the treatment primarily for the following allergies:
- Tree nuts
Currently, the above four foods account for a large portion of the allergies faced by adults and children in the United States. As clinical trials are pursued, results may lead to additional foods that can be treated by food allergy desensitization.
What Are the Limitations of Oral Immunotherapy?
Oral immunotherapy does have its limits. It is only effective with IgE-mediated food allergies, not food intolerances. It cannot be administered to patients who can’t describe their symptoms to the health care providers. Therefore, a patient has to be at least five years old and have good communication skills. In addition, patients with asthma are not good candidates for oral immunotherapy until and unless their asthma can be controlled.
How Eﬀective is Oral Immunotherapy for Food Allergens?
Desensitization can be achieved in approximately 50-80% of children for any food allergy, including peanuts. The rate of permanent tolerance is unknown (ex. being able to tolerate the allergen without taking a daily maintenance dose), but appears to be low for foods such as peanuts; the longer the duration of Oral Immunotherapy (OIT), the better the outcome of the treatmwent.
The Main Goals of Food Allergy Desensitization
As patients have individual needs, varying levels of immune system tolerance and response to an allergen, OIT treatment will produce varied results. Through careful testing and consultation, a patient and their allergist will define goals that allow for a better quality of life – with a reduced chance of severe allergic reactions. Treatment success is determined based on achieving these predetermined goals.
Common Questions About Oral Immunotherapy Treatment
Is oral immunotherapy considered a cure for food allergies?
No. Currently there are no cures for food allergies. However, food allergy desensitization can help patients reach a point where they no longer experience allergic reactions when consuming a type of food. The process will require the ongoing consumption of a maintenance dose to support immune system tolerance.
Is the peanut pill an effective food allergy desensitization method?
The peanut pill, Palforzia, has been shown to be effective in desensitizing many patients to peanut protein. However, Dr. Chacko uses real peanuts and peanut butter rather than peanut powder. This OIT approach has been proven to be effective long before FDA approval of the peanut pill.
Who will make a good candidate for food allergy desensitization?
Patients that have been confirmed to have a food allergy through allergy testing can make good candidates. In addition, individuals must be committed to the treatment schedule over an extended period to realize the benefits of OIT.
Contact Dr. Chacko Today to See If You qualify for OIT Treatment
Dr. Thomas Chacko’s oral immunotherapy treatment may allow you to stop avoiding the foods that trigger allergies. Request an appointment today to see if you qualify for this exciting treatment option, or contact Dr. Thomas Chacko at 678-668-4688.