Lactose Intolerance Vs. Milk Allergy
About 65% of people are lactose-intolerant. They experience gastric upset when they consume dairy products. This is because they don't have the ability to break down lactose which is a sugar naturally occurring in milk. A true milk allergy is different than lactose intolerance because it is caused by an allergic reaction to a milk protein. Symptoms can range from hives to vomiting to bloody stools. In severe cases, a reaction to milk products can result in anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition in which the victim may not be able to breathe and can go into shock.
The Risk of a Milk Allergy
Among children younger than three, milk allergy occurs at the rate of about two to three percent. 80% children will outgrow their allergy by the time they reach school age, but a milk allergy can persist for a lifetime. The symptoms can range from mild hives around mouth to severe life threatening anaphylactic reactions. Wheat, peanuts, eggs ,tree nuts , fish and shellfish are also common culprit allergens. Sesame is an emerging concern. All are capable of producing anaphylactic shock in susceptible individuals.
In a world full of processed foods containing hidden ingredients, it's not always so easy to avoid a food allergen. Parents constantly worry about their child's accidental exposure and possible consequences. However, a new procedure known as Oral Immunotherapy, or OIT, offers hope to those afflicted with dangerous food allergies.
Oral Immunotherapy OIT
OIT involves medically supervised exposure to tiny oral doses of the culprit food. This dose is precisely determined before it's administered. The patient is watched carefully for any reaction before they are allowed to leave the office. The food item is repeatedly administered over a period of time. The doses are gradually increased over time. This process continues until the patient can tolerate their allergen without any dangerous reaction and infact, restores normal eating habits for these children without worrying about the culprit food allergen.
OIT can be used safely in children. In order to maintain protection against the allergen, OIT may need to be continued indefinitely. More research is being done to determine patients who don’t need it indefinitely. However, considering the benefits it provides against accidental allergen exposure and possible life-threatening reactions, it's more than worth it.