Oral Immunotherapy(OIT) for Food Allergies
For children with severe food allergies and their parents, even common scenarios — like going to a friend’s birthday party or eating in a restaurant — can be a significant source of fear and anxiety.
Up to now, the only treatment was strict and complete avoidance of the allergen — and carrying an emergency epinephrine auto-injector (commonly called an Epi-Pen) for use in the case of accidental ingestion.
Oral immunotherapy offers an alternative path to living with food allergies. Done with the guidance of an allergist, oral immunotherapy treatment exposes patients to a gradually increasing dose of the allergen over several months until they can tolerate a target dose. The target varies by patient and can range from a “bite-proof dose” — which would protect the patient from the effects of accidental ingestion — all the way up to a “free-eating dose” — which would allow the patient to eat as much as they wanted.
Who is a good candidate for oral immunotherapy treatment?
Oral immunotherapy treatment works best in young children — usually under the age of 9 — as older patients can experience long-lasting negative effects.
This kind of treatment requires a significant commitment! Before embarking on oral immunotherapy, it’s important to understand how it works, be aware of the risks and get everyone involved — the patient, their parents or caregivers, and your allergist — on the same page.
Here’s what the first two weeks of a typical oral immunotherapy regimen might look like:
- Day 1 — Visit a Hudson Allergy location. Your allergist will administer the smallest dose of the allergen, and you’ll wait in the office for about an hour in case of any reaction.
- Days 2-7 — Caregivers administer that same smallest dose of the allergen, once per day, at home.
- Day 8 — Return to the office for a slightly larger dose, then wait to ensure there’s no reaction.
- Days 9-14 — Administer this slightly larger dose at home once per day.
- Repeat until you reach the target dose!
Depending on the specific allergy and the desired target dose, treatment could take four to nine months or more to achieve high enough doses. And both patients and caregivers should be prepared for side effects — itchiness, hives and even anaphylaxis at home are not out of the question.
The good news is that families that make the commitment to do oral immunotherapy treatment for their child’s food allergies are likely to see a huge change in what’s possible. At the end of treatment, patients can be much more comfortable going out to eat, taking vacations and enjoying the best of what life has to offer.
Contact our excellent allergists at Hudson Allergy to learn more about oral immunotherapy treatment for your child’s food allergies.