Is Oral Immunotherapy Safe For My Child?


Food allergies affect around 15 million Americans and many more all over the world. According to the CDC, the food allergy has increased by almost 50% from 1997 to 2011, which is almost triple for peanut and tree nut allergies. Food allergies are serious and can lead to life-threatening complications. Each year more than 200,000 people require emergency care due to a reaction to food allergies.

Food allergies have reached an epidemic proportion. Waiting for a specific drug to cure all the allergies is not an option, and we cannot wait for it. Customized food allergy treatment has been well researched and has given positive results. Oral immunotherapy (OIT) is the only treatment modality for food allergies.

How effective is OIT?

OIT refers to feeding a person an increasing amount of allergic food with the goal of increasing the threshold that triggers allergic reaction or symptoms. The aim is to provide protection against accidental consumption of the allergen.

Efficacy and success of OIT in clinical trials has been defined by the initiation of a desensitized state. Desensitization refers to the improvement in the allergic reaction outcomes after therapy and depends on the ongoing exposure to the allergen. Milk, egg and peanut OIT has shown to desensitize around 60 to 80% of kids.

How food allergies affect children’s wellbeing?

Children with food allergies have a significant increase in anxiety, stress and depression. Avoidance of food can further lead to poor nutrition and social isolation. The quality-of-life score for a child with a food allergy is lower than the score for a child with type-1 diabetes.

Traditionally, people with food allergies were advised that the only option for treatment is to avoid the allergic food and manage reactions that may occur due to accidental exposure. This is not only very difficult but it also provokes stress and anxiety for the patients and their families. It is particularly very challenging for the children who start attending school, day care, and birthday parties. Many scientists are working hard to find more effective ways to treat food allergies. However, one strategy that has given positive results is Oral Immunotherapy or OIT.

Point to remember!

OIT is not a curative therapy! Individuals who get OIT should continue to carry epinephrine, read food labels, etc. You should not expect that OIT will lead to ingestion of a particular allergic food without any limitations.

However, OIT is an ongoing investigational treatment method, offering the hope of cure and protection from food allergy reactions. Like other chronic diseases, food allergy treatment can not be “one size fits all” approach.

Talk to your board-certified allergist if you want to consider OIT for yourself or your child. It can not only improve your quality of life but also reduce your day to day stress and anxiety. An allergist can provide guidance and counsel you about the benefits and risks of OIT.