Children and adults with food allergies make up a large portion of my patients, and the number continues to grow. A recent study showed that 2% of children, or 1.6 million kids, have this life-threatening condition in the United States. As a parent with a child who is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, this especially hits close to home. It is scary to always wonder if she will eat something while not under my watchful eye that leads to “the big one”. This is true especially now as she enters her teenage years where she is experiencing more freedom and independence.
Currently, there is no Food and Drug Association approved treatment for food allergies. The American College of Asthma and Immunology recommends strict avoidance and to always carry an Epinephrine auto injector. Easier said than done. The list gets longer and longer as I holler to her when she runs out the door. Did you brush your teeth, do you have your phone, your keys, your epinephrine auto injector?
However, there is hope on the horizon. Board certified Allergists including myself have begun to offer Oral Immunotherapy to foods. This involves taking a daily food product. Patients start off with very small quantities, less than one-hundredth of the food. The amount is slowly increased over weeks to months in an allergist's office. Eventually the patient will reach a maintenance that can vary based on the clinical scenario. Once this dose is reached, patient will remain on a daily dose of the food product indefinitely. This process desensitizes the patient to the food. Therefore, if the food is accidentally ingested, the patient will be less sensitive to the food and less likely to have a severe reaction. Patients still need to carry their epinephrine auto-injectors and continue to eat the previous offending food on a regular basis.
There is not a cure--yet. But, this offers peace of mind to the child and their parents if and when an accidental ingestion occurs. This significantly improves the quality of life for the patient and their family members.
If you would like to know more about Oral Immunotherapy, please visit our website or call our office to set up an appointment.
By Dr. Elizabeth Majeski
Allergy Partners of Charleston