What Is Oral Immunotherapy?
Oral immunotherapy, also known as “OIT”, is an oral allergy treatment method. It involves routine oral administration of tiny doses of a particular allergen, with the goal of building up immunity. Initially, the food is consumed in a small amount and then gradually increases over time. Eventually, there should be little-to-no allergic response.
Oral Immunotherapy Benefits
The biggest benefit of oral immunotherapy is that the treatment should result in the desensitization of an allergic reaction. It should be noted, however, that there will be an initial reaction to the first few treatments. Some patients experience more aggressive reactions to initial exposure than others, and patients should be prepared for some discomfort. Fortunately, treatment is closely supervised and the risks are minimal compared to the benefits.
What Allergies Can Oral Immunotherapy Treat?
Oral Immunotherapy is effective in treating a number of common food allergies. These common food allergies include:
- Tree nuts
- Sesame seed
If you want to know whether or not your specific food allergy can be treated with OIT, be sure to ask your Allergy & ENT Associates allergist.
Candidates for Oral Immunotherapy
Oral immunotherapy for food allergies is appropriate for people of all ages. We use this treatment for patients with diagnosed IgE-mediated food allergies. We also monitor patients with asthma to make sure they do not have a reaction during oral immunotherapy.
Symptoms of OIT
During OIT, the initial dose of the allergen is so minuscule that the body will often not even recognize it. Many patients experience no allergic symptoms during treatment, but this is not always the case. Initial symptoms of immunotherapy can include:
- Upset stomach
- Oral itching
- Burning mouth
- Mild hives
More severe reactions are rare. The combined data from several studies suggest that severe reactions to OIT occur in less than 10% of cases. Be sure to inform your doctor if you are experiencing a particularly intense reaction to treatment.
Is Oral Immunotherapy Effective?
According to clinical studies, oral immunotherapy is an effective, often successful treatment for food allergies.OIT reaches desensitization in 50-80% of food allergy cases.
How long is oral immunotherapy?
An oral immunotherapy program can take place over a nine to twelve-month period. After the initial program, patients may wish to maintain a small daily dose of their allergen for several more months or years. To obtain the most optimal results, it is important to continue to keep in contact with your allergist.
OIT vs. Allergy Shots
Allergy shots and oral immunotherapy work on a similar principle: expose the body to small doses of an allergen to gradually build tolerance. Shots represent a common method of immunotherapy for seasonal and other allergies, including pet dander and dust mites. This technique is valuable for a range of allergies, but not for food allergies. Aside from complete avoidance, oral immunotherapy is the best method of reducing risks associated with food allergies.
Is Oral Immunotherapy Safe?
Oral immunotherapy involves eating tiny doses, of the allergen in gradually increasing amounts daily. High-dose and low-dose oral immunotherapy are safe and effective at suppressing allergic immune reactions.
Is OIT A Permanent Solution For my allergies?
Unfortunately, it takes many years of following up with treated patients to answer this question accurately. What current data shows, however, is that the completion of a formal treatment protocol followed by three years of maintenance dosing, most patients can maintain desensitization with no more than once-a-week exposure.