Food allergies affect millions of people across the country, with a sizable portion of children impacted by this issue. Reactions to particular foods can range from mild to potentially life-threatening.
While the standard approach has been to simply avoid the problem foods, hidden allergens are always a problem. Oral immunotherapy offers an alternative solution – and peace of mind – for child patients and their parents, and adult patients as well. Dr. Chacko is a board certified allergist, providing oral immunotherapy treatment in Atlanta and the surrounding area.
How Does Oral Immunotherapy Treatment Work?
Oral immunotherapy (OIT) involves desensitizing the body to the allergen that causes an unusual reaction. Initially, the patient receives diluted doses of the food allergen over a period of seven hours. The patient can then take a prepared dose twice a day from home. Over the course of six months to a year, the dose potency is gradually increased, growing the tolerance to the problematic food. A successful treatment should result in the ability to eat the food without fear of an allergic reaction. We go into detail on what OIT is also.
When tests show you or your child have become tolerant to an allergen, you can then add the food to your diet. For some patients, it may be necessary to maintain dosing on an ongoing basis to ensure tolerance is maintained.
The Benefits of Oral Immunotherapy
Depending on the aims and requirements of each patient, OIT will provide a number of key benefits.
- Reduces chances of allergic reactions
- Suitable for all ages
- Safe treatment
- Reduces fear
- Enables a healthy diet
Patients opt for oral immunotherapy treatment primarily to limit the possibility of an allergic reaction. When parents are researching what OIT is, a key attraction is the prevention of those allergic reactions that could put their child in danger. This leads to another benefit – people of almost all ages are potential candidates. In fact, children as young as six months old have overcome allergies thanks to Dr. Chacko’s treatment.
Safety is another prime consideration, and OIT has numerous success stories from around the world. At his clinic, Dr. Chacko will evaluate a patient’s risk level to determine if oral immunotherapy is the best course of action.
Dealing with fear of a serious allergic reaction is quite stressful. When parents and children are overly conscious of accidental exposure, it becomes a roadblock in their daily lives. Naturally, food intake is greatly affected and many times will result in whole food groups being removed from a diet – and with this, valuable nutrients will be lost. With oral immunotherapy treatment, patients feel much more comfortable eating a wider variety of foods without any fear.
Why Is Oral Immunotherapy Important?
It’s quite natural to question whether it is worth going through the OIT process. Some people prefer to avoid contact with allergens as best they can, and hope they just “grow out” of their allergies. However, allergies are risky and unpredictable and unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that reactions won’t become worse.
In addition, food allergies have become more common in recent decades, meaning that more people are impacted in their daily lives. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 13 children in the United States are currently affected by a food allergy. Among this higher number of cases some will be severe enough to require medical attention.
Trying to maintain a healthy diet and live a normal life becomes more difficult when there is a food allergy to consider. Children may avoid parties and other experiences due to an allergy fear, with possible repercussions to their social development. Similarly, adults may avoid restaurants and other pleasures due to a concern over accidental exposure. OIT offers a way to overcome these issues and get back to a normal life again.
What Types of Food Allergies Can OIT Treat?
While this treatment is often considered new, a look at the history of OIT shows the concept has been around for many centuries. As you would expect, treatment has progressed considerably, and the safe, modern approach used by Dr. Chacko delivers high success rates for patients.
The primary food allergies addressed by oral immunotherapy treatment are peanut, tree nut, egg, milk and wheat – foods that are present in so many of the products we consume each day. With these food types, OIT continues to deliver successful results for adults and children. After a successful treatment there will be much less reliance on scrutinizing food labels and avoiding events, reducing stress and making a more balanced diet possible.
Egg allergies most commonly appear in young children, though they can impact people of all ages. Young children often experience skin reactions and redness in the face, while older kids and adults might get stomach cramps, nasal congestion and breathing issues. A National Library of Medicine study showed that OIT desensitizes a high proportion of children and produces sustained unresponsiveness to egg proteins.
Milk is another common cause of allergies in children. Typically, cow’s milk is most likely to cause allergies, but milk from sheep, goats and other animals can also create difficulties. Since dairy products help develop strong teeth and bones, a healthy heart and appropriate blood pressure, it increases the preference for a milk allergy treatment over an avoidance approach.
Peanuts are known to sometimes cause severe allergic reactions in adults and children. For those with ongoing issues, carrying an epinephrine auto-injector is a necessity. Due to these risks, treating a peanut allergy with OIT desensitization is a valuable option.
Shellfish allergies are managed based on a comprehensive diagnosis. Given that mollusks and crustaceans encompass distinct types of shellfish, your allergist must accurately pinpoint the trigger of the reaction.
Tree Nut Allergies
Tree nuts are one of the most common causes of anaphylaxis. For those with a history of allergies, exposure to almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios and other hard-shelled nuts requires caution. Fortunately, for many patients tree nut allergy treatments like OIT prevent the most severe reactions.
Oral Immunotherapy Isn’t a New Concept
The discussion around desensitization and avoidance is not a new one. Desensitization has been used for over a century, with allergy shots dating back to 1911. Methods have progressed, and today’s approaches are much safer and more effective in overcoming allergies. Explore the history of oral immunotherapy and its origins in greater detail.
Effectiveness of Oral Immunotherapy
While oral immunotherapy is changing the lives of countless children suffering with food allergies, there can be limitations. Desensitization only works with IgE-mediated food allergies and will not be effective for food intolerances. The treatment can be expected to work in around 50–80% of cases. The length of the treatment will also impact how long the tolerance lasts.
If you are based in the Alpharetta, Atlanta, Canton, Cumming, Duluth and Johns Creek areas, request an appointment to find out how we can help you.
Oral Immunotherapy Treatment FAQs
Oral immunotherapy is a powerful and effective treatment solution for food allergies. When people are determining whether the treatment is right for them and/or their family, here are the most common questions we are asked.
Can children of all ages be treated?
This varies based on the severity of the allergy and the type of allergy. Dr. Chacko has great success with younger children. OIT Patient Success Stories are available.
Is the treatment effective for peanut allergies?
Yes. Oral immunotherapy has proven to be effective for many patients with peanut allergy. In fact, peanut allergy treatment is one of our most popular OIT treatments.
What types of food allergies can be treated?
Common food types treated include peanut, tree nut, milk, egg, and wheat. Contact our food allergy treatment center to discuss your particular allergy issues.
Ready to Discuss OIT Treatment?
If you are interested in learning more about oral immunotherapy, request an appointment at our food allergy treatment center nearest you. We have locations in Alpharetta, Atlanta, Canton, Cumming, Druid Hills, Duluth and Johns Creek. You may call us at 678-668-4688.