Millions of people (almost 1 in 6 individuals) in the United States suffer from a peanut allergy. Ranging in severity, this allergy can produce unwanted immune system responses when peanuts are introduced to the body. Sometimes the symptoms can be as manageable as vomiting or as severe as intense hives and swelling around the face and throat and could be life threatening (aka anaphylaxis). Individuals who struggle with a peanut allergy may have a much harder time finding things to eat, as many foods contain trace amounts of peanuts.
Fortunately, however, new research has been paving the way in helping to treat peanut allergies. The treatment is known as Oral Immunotherapy, otherwise abbreviated as OIT, and it involves introducing small amounts of the food to the body to build up the body's positive response to the food. The core principle behind the therapy can be found in many other fields of medication. As long as the body continues to be exposed to the allergy-inducing substance, the body will eventually become desensitized to the allergic reaction.
Individuals are given relatively small doses to begin and then the dose is escalated in a buildup phase. During the buildup phase, more of the food is given in carefully measured and specific amounts to control the body's reaction. The patient is observed in clinic for reaction during higher doses. This therapy development can provide those who struggle with food allergies hope regarding what foods they can have in the future.
Oral Immunotherapy is extremely safe, as patients only field mild discomfort while their bodies adjust to new foods. Extreme reactions are very rare and over 85% of those who join such therapy programs can complete the program without any significant issue. The most common side effect is immediate or delayed gastrointestinal problems. OIT is also offered for other food allergies, like tree nuts, milk and wheat.