The Sneeze

Benefits of Oral Immunotherapy for Food Allergy

August 15, 2021

Written By: Andrew Dang, MD

What is OIT?

Oral Immunotherapy for food allergy, or "OIT," is oral desensitization for food allergies under direction of a board-certified allergist. Desensitization can be understood as a retraining of the immune system to tolerate food proteins through controlled, daily ingestion of the food protein. In essence, this is "fighting fire with fire," where you ingest a food allergen in a strictly organized and controlled manner in order to decrease the risk of allergic reactions to said food allergen.

OIT starts off with tiny levels of the food protein (typically diluted in liquid) ingested every 24 hours. The amount of food protein is small enough to not cause an allergic reaction. Gradually the daily dose is increased through weekly appointments in our food allergy clinic. Over the course of 6 to 9 months, a patient will build up the dose to a maintenance dose which can be as large as a serving size of the food; for example, peanut-allergic patients may achieve a maintenance dose of 8 peanut kernels daily! The maintenance dose is consumed daily to keep up the protection against allergic reactions. The duration of OIT is lifelong: patients need to continue to take a daily maintenance dose to keep the protection going, since studies find that stopping the daily maintenance dose, even after a few years, typically results in a return of food allergy reactions.

Why do OIT?

Living with anaphylactic food allergies is difficult and scary, particularly with how dining options and social interactions can be limited (e.g. patient with nut allergy being afraid to go to the ice cream shop with friends). OIT can "bite-proof" the allergic patient by decreasing the risk of an allergic reaction if the patient were to ingest the food. Metaphorically, OIT puts a protective "lid" over the pot which reduces the risk of the food allergy from "boiling over" and causing an allergic reaction. This can result in improved quality of life by allowing patients to eat at restaurants they may have avoided, or to enjoy meals with friends and family that they wouldn't be able to enjoy.

If you want to learn more OIT, schedule an appointment with one of our allergists at Premier Allergy and Asthma where you can find out if OIT would benefit you or your loved one!

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