Revolutionary Food Allergy Treatment
For people with food allergies, it can be very difficult to avoid the food you’re allergic to – even for the most cautious patients and their families.
Until recently, those who suffer from food allergies were limited in their treatment options. The mainstays of therapy were isolated to strict dietary avoidance of the food allergen and carrying an epinephrine auto-injector (e.g., EpiPen, Auvi-Q) to calm a serious allergic reaction only after it’s happened. This is where oral immunotherapy comes in, which provides a patient or parent the opportunity to stop a food allergy reaction before it starts.
Oral immunotherapy, or OIT for short, is a state-of-the-art treatment that gradually desensitizes the immune system to a particular allergen. OIT can significantly reduce the risk of a severe reaction to an accidental food allergen exposure. While it does not represent a cure for food allergy, OIT is the closest we have come thus far.
What Is Oral Immunotherapy?
This new and emerging desensitization therapy for food allergy modifies the immune system's response, allowing you to prevent a severe reaction to a food allergy before it happens.
Oral immunotherapy is designed to desensitize patients to their food allergen through daily exposure to the food by mouth. We start with extremely low doses of the food you are allergic to and increase the dose slowly over a period of months. The targeted maintenance dose of OIT is believed to provide "bite-proof" protection from accidental or cross-contaminated ingestions of an allergen. Dose increases ("updoses") are given in an Oak Brook Allergists office, usually at weekly intervals, but most doses are taken on an everyday basis at home.
When the recommended dosing parameters are followed, this treatment approach is safe and effective and can be used in adults and children as young as 3 years old. Patients undergoing OIT should still carry epinephrine with them at all times.
Immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots has been used to treat other types of allergies since the early 1900s, but this has been for environmental allergens only. Oral immunotherapy represents the first time that disease-modifying therapy has been available for food allergies.
Are You a Good Candidate for OIT?
Oral immunotherapy may not be appropriate for every person with a food allergy. The best candidates for OIT right now are those who:
- Have a confirmed food allergy diagnosis to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, or eggs
- Are 3 years old or older
- Are in good health
- Have well-controlled allergies, eczema, and/or asthma
- Are willing to strictly adhere to the OIT regimen
While OIT is safe and effective for adults and children, it has been shown to be the most effective when used in preteen children.
Benefits of Oral Immunotherapy
The primary goal of the OIT program at Oak Brook Allergists is to significantly reduce the risk of an anaphylactic reaction.
The level of protection achieved by oral immunotherapy can:
- Eliminate the need to scrutinize food labels
- Provide allergic children the freedom to sit with friends in the school cafeteria rather than at an isolated, allergen-free table
- Free families from the anxiety associated with routine events such as going to restaurants, ice cream shops, and birthday parties or flying on airplanes
- Proactively protect children from accidental allergen exposure as they become more independent and spend less time under your watchful eyes
OIT can result in "sustained unresponsiveness" for a minority of patients, although most will require ongoing oral immunotherapy and continued maintenance dosing after completion of the OIT protocol. As of now, OIT should be viewed as an indefinite lifelong therapy, but this is subject to change as we gather more long-term data.
There is no question that food allergies negatively affect the quality of life for our patients and their families. That’s why the allergy and immunology specialists at Oak Brook Allergists are excited to offer this leading-edge therapy. We welcome the opportunity to tell you more about this life-changing food allergy treatment.
Oral Immunotherapy in Will County & DuPage County, IL
Curious about oral immunotherapy? If you or a loved one has a food allergy, contact the allergy and asthma experts at Oak Brook Allergists in northeast Illinois to find out if OIT is a treatment option for you. Call (630) 574-0460 for more information or request your appointment now.