The medical field is perpetually in flux with invaluable discoveries being brought to light every day. Oral immunotherapy (OIT) is no exception. It is a unique and novel approach to treating allergy symptoms caused by certain foods, including peanut.
Allergy Tampa is one of the earliest practices in Florida to harness this cutting-edge food desensitization technique for patients suffering from severe food allergies – and the results are promising.
It’s time to conquer your fears of food allergy. With OIT – and Allergy Tampa – you can.
What is Food Allergy Vs Intolerance?
A true food allergy is an IgE-mediated immune reaction to foods. The body mistakenly thinks the food is a foreign invader (such as a parasite) rather than simple nourishment. Symptoms usually occur immediately after eating the food (within 30 minutes to 2 hours) and include hives/itchy rash, wheezing, trouble breathing, swelling of the lips, tongue or throat, abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and, in severe cases, death.
This should not be confused with a nonallergic food reaction or food intolerance, e.g. lactose intolerance. Food intolerances are usually not life-threatening. The symptoms are milder and may include bloating, indigestion, and delayed diarrhea, among others.
Food Allergy Testing
Testing by an allergy specialist can provide helpful insight for patients with a history of reactions to certain foods. There are different tools used to evaluate for suspected food allergy: skin or blood allergy testing and oral food challenges.
While effective for ruling out foods that someone is not allergic to, skin or blood allergy testing can sometimes yield false-positive results. For this reason, oral food challenges are the best way to achieve an accurate diagnosis if the history and allergy testing does not clearly support a diagnosis of food allergy. In an oral food challenge, a food is given in increasing amounts over a few hours to see if an allergic reaction occurs. Oral challenges are closely supervised by an allergy specialist.
What is OIT?
OIT, or oral immunotherapy, is a revolutionary nonsurgical approach to the treatment of food allergy. OIT works by gradually and carefully reintroducing foods to which a patient is allergic. This allows the body’s immune system to become desensitized to the food and may lessen food allergy symptoms during future exposures. This process is much slower than the oral food challenge procedure described above.
During the OIT process, the patient ingests a tiny amount of the trigger food and then slowly increases the amount ingested every 1-3 weeks until reaching a maintenance dose. Each increase in amount ingested is supervised by an allergy specialist.
OIT is not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, it is effective in clinical studies and practiced by allergy offices throughout the United States. Alternative treatments for food allergy include continued avoidance of the food with readily available epinephrine autoinjectors. Additionally, some patients may lose food sensitivity over time without the use of OIT.
What Can I Expect from OIT Therapy?
The process begins with a four-hour day in the office where the first 6-7 doses are given. If all those doses are well tolerated, you or your child will then receive 11-12 additional build-up doses, usually given every 1-3 weeks. Within 4-6 months, a patient can reach maintenance. Consuming the maintenance dose helps to prevent most severe reactions in the event of an accidental exposure. To maintain a desensitized state, patients will need to continue consuming the maintenance dose of the food daily for an indefinite period of time, as directed by your doctor.
Who Is a Candidate for OIT and Food Desensitization?
OIT is most effective in children. Those over the age of 4 who are able to adequately communicate their allergy symptoms to a physician are optimal candidates At Allergy Tampa, we are currently performing OIT in patients with peanut allergy. We plan to expand to more foods in the near future.
Again, this procedure is intended only for food allergies, not food intolerances. Allergic reactions can occur during the process of OIT. Therefore, patients must carry epinephrine autoinjectors and be in good health. For example, those with asthma are not advised to try this technique unless their condition is well controlled.
OIT Procedure in Tampa, Florida
Drs. Lockey, Fox, Ledford, Glaum, Cho, and Pepper at Allergy Tampa are experienced, board-certified physicians currently conducting OITin the Tampa area.
Take fear of food allergies off the menu. Contact us today for more information and to start allergy testing and treatment.