Food Oral Immunotherapy
For most people, celebrations are fun events. But for parents of food allergic children, or even for food allergic adults, activities involving food can be filled with worry. This is because coming in contact with a food allergen has the potential to cause a very serious allergic reaction.
Allergies are the result of a reaction that starts in the immune system. For instance, if you have an allergy to eggs, your immune system identifies a protein found in eggs as an allergen. Your immune system reacts by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies attach to cells in your skin, lungs and gastrointestinal (GI) tract. If you come in contact with the allergen again, the cells release chemicals including histamine, which cause food allergy symptoms such as itching, hives, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing and a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis (an-a-fi-LAK-sis). Without immediate treatment - an injection of epinephrine and expert care in a hospital - anaphylaxis can be fatal.
Diagnosing Food Allergies
An allergist / immunologist has specialized training and expertise to determine if your symptoms are caused by a food allergy or due to other food-related disorders such as food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES) or eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE).
Your allergist will take a thorough medical history, followed by a physical examination. You will be asked about the foods you eat, the frequency, severity and nature of your symptoms, and the amount of time between eating a food and any reaction.
Allergy skin tests may determine which foods, if any, trigger your allergic symptoms. In skin testing, a small amount of extract made from the food is placed on the back or arm. If a raised bump or small hive develops within 20 minutes, it indicates a possible allergy. If it does not develop, the test is negative. It is uncommon for someone with a negative skin test to have an IgE-mediated food allergy, but your allergist may also recommend an IgE blood test.
Treating Food Allergies
Historically, avoidance has been the only available treatment and advice a physician could give to their food allergic patients. After decades of research, Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) has proven to be a safe and 85% successful medical treatment that allows a person's immune system become desensitized to a food they may otherwise be allergic to. This is not a cure to food allergies but a way to decrease the incidence of anaphylaxis via accidental ingestion, as well as an effective way to induce long term remission of food allergies. Patients undergoing any OIT program will need to continue to avoid eating the foods they are allergic to, as well as carry their epinephrine auto-injector in case of accidental exposure. Thanks to the evidence-based research, OIT treatment programs are becoming more common within hospitals and private practice allergy clinics throughout the US.
AAANC's OIT Program
Our board-certified and fellowship-trained allergy doctors have developed a safe and controlled process of oral immunotherapy for their patients with allergies to foods such as peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs. Our program is targeted for anyone age 3 or older, takes about 6-12 months to complete, and includes one hour clinic visits every 2 weeks as the up-dosing of the allergen requires medical supervision. The clinic up-dose appointment is followed by home dosing daily until the next up-dose appointment. Research shows that by desensitizing a person to the equivalent of one - two nuts, anaphylaxis due to accidental ingestion can be reduced by 95%! Our staff will partner with you during your OIT journey so that you always feel supported. We offer 24/7 communication with our providers, and plenty of information to help you feel comfortable with the process.
If you are interested in learning more about our OIT program, please make an appointment with one of our allergists to learn if you or a loved one is a candidate for OIT. Our business office will create a financial plan that includes your insurance contributions so there should be no surprises along the way.