Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) for food allergies is a life changing medical treatment that re-trains the immune system to become desensitized to food allergens through regular ingestion of food proteins at increasing doses. Alabama Allergy's Food Allergy Treatment Center provides OIT to patients who are at risk for anaphylactic reactions to peanut, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, sesame seed, and wheat. This treatment is guided by Sunena Argo, MD Board Certified Allergist and Erin Cuzzort, CRNP.
Why doesn't OIT have FDA approval?
Traditional private practice OIT that has been performed on thousands of patients for more than a decade uses food products that already have FDA approval. For example, peanut flour and cran-grape juice individually have FDA approval to be sold to the public. Therefore, adding these two products together to be used for desensitization does not require additional FDA approval.
What are the expectations after OIT is complete?
After the OIT build up process is complete, then begins a phase called maintenance. Patients maintain the treated food allergen in their diet at regular intervals as directed by their OIT provider. Initially doses are administered daily, but with time (approximately two to three years of maintenance) and continued dose administration, patients are then able to consume doses as little as a few times weekly. As long as doses are maintained, the patient will continue to have protection against accidental ingestion of their allergen. Patients are still considered allergic, but desensitized. They are able to tolerate measured portions of their allergen and are free from the fear of accidental ingestion, but still must maintain an epinephrine auto-injector in the event anaphylaxis occurs. The risk of anaphylaxis to treatment is low at three to five percent during the first year of OIT and decreases over time.
Who qualifies for OIT?
Patients must be at least four years of age and have good communication skills in order to be considered for treatment. Qualifying patients must have an IgE-mediated food allergy to any of the foods we treat documented by either positive history of reaction or positive skin prick tests and serum specific IgE antibody indicating likelihood of true clinical allergy. For patients under the age of four, we currently offer sublingual immunotherapy for peanut.
How effective is OIT?
Studies consistently show that 85 to 90 percent of patients will achieve protection against accidental ingestion, which is the primary goal of OIT. Some will then go on to freely introduce their allergen into their diet as desired after passing a full serving challenge in the office under medical supervision.
If you have questions regarding the services at our Food Allergy Treatment Center or if you would like to schedule an appointment, please call 205-558-9086 or visit us at alabamaallergy.com/foodallergy
Sunena Argo, MD is a Fellow in Adult and Pediatric Allergy and Immunology and practices with Alabama Allergy & Asthma Center.
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