Top Doctors recently had the pleasure of speaking to revered consultant adult and paediatric allergist and immunologist, Professor Adam Fox, who, here in our latest article below, tells us all about food oral immunotherapy, including what it is, the results, as well as how long the process lasts.
What is food oral immunotherapy? Who is a suitable candidate?
We start by giving the patients small amounts of food that has been causing them allergic reactions. We then slowly increase the amount of this food as a way to retrain the immune system to be a little less sensitive.
The benefit of food oral immunotherapy is that it reduces the chances of you having accidental allergic reactions. It is still possible to experience allergic reactions, but it reduces the chances of this happening.
What foods are offered?
The most common that I treat is allergy to peanuts, wheat, sesame, cashew nuts, almonds, as well as offering treatment for eggs and milk.
How long does the entire process take? How often can the dose be increased?
It is a long-term treatment. It takes a little while for the doses to be increased to get to an improved level of tolerance. To do that, the patient needs to come into the clinic and be given a small dose. As long as that is tolerated, it will then be continued at home, daily, for a minimum of two or three weeks.
Then, if all goes to plan, the patient will be given a bigger dose, again under supervision, and they’ll have that every day at home for a specific period of time. On average, the process lasts around four months.
Is food oral immunotherapy safe? How common are severe allergic reactions?
There are risks involved, as you are actually ingesting the food that you are allergic to each time you dose. Thankfully, though, it is generally very well tolerated. Having said that though, severe reactions can occur and have to be prepared for.
What results can patients expect with food oral immunotherapy?
It is not a cure for the food allergy. The patients’ immune system will become less sensitive to the food that they are allergic to, although, in younger children, there is evidence in can improve the chances of the allergy being outgrown completely.
Can food oral immunotherapy help to treat food intolerances as well?
It is meant for treating immediate-type allergic reactions. Unfortunately, it will not help with things such as food intolerance nor delayed food allergies.
What age is most appropriate for oral immunotherapy?
There is research to strongly suggest that desensitising at a younger age can have less side effects and can be more effective, allowing children to tolerate better the food they are allergic to. Research also suggests that desensitising at the earliest age possible can actually lead to the child eventually outgrowing their food allergy. Any age from nine months onwards would be suitable.
Professor Adam Fox is a highly esteemed consultant adult and paediatric allergist and immunologist who can help you and your child in relation to food immunotherapy. Contact him today to book an appointment with him via his Top Doctors profile.