Food Allergy Treatment Definitions

Peanut Allergy
As I reported last week, we've been presented with the exciting opportunity to participate in a sublingual immunotherapy program for peanut allergy. As I've begun discussing this opportunity with others, I'm finding a good deal of confusion, both within the food allergy community and beyond, about potential food allergy treatments. The two most promising possible treatments available today are sublingual immunotherapy and oral immunotherapy. Here are a few important definitions when we talk about "food allergy treatments":

Immunotherapy is the process of giving small doses of what a person is allergic to in order to increase tolerance and build immunity to reduce the likelihood of an allergic reaction

In sublingual immunotherapy (also known as SLIT) the allergic person will hold the food extract under the tongue for a short period of time (our allergist's protocol is two minutes) and then swallow it. The dose will be gradually increased over time. Our process will be one office visit every two weeks and daily doses at home at the same level between those office visits. The entire process will take place over 7 months. Following SLIT, patients may participate in a food challenge, or may be recommended for an oral immunotherapy program.

In oral immunotherapy (OIT), an allergic individual swallows a small amount of the food they are allergic to. Treatment begins with a diluted form of the food and is gradually increased during office visits and at home

There are pros and cons to any type of treatment program. I encourage anyone considering SLIT or OIT to do your own research and make the best decision you can for your family. Some will go with a wait and see approach and not take any action right now. Others will decide to move ahead in these still unchartered areas. Here are a few articles and links to get you started if you are considering either method:

Oral Immunotherapy Not Ready for Prime Time, by Dr. Hugh Sampson. In the comments that follow the article, many parents of children who have successfully gone through OIT speak out.

Is Sublingual or Oral Immunotherapy better for Treatment of Food Allergy, published in February 2012 by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), concluded that neither are optimal. That said, at the March 2012 AAAI annual meeting, presenters offered new research about SLIT and OIT that showed promise and results for both.

It is obvious that things are moving quickly in this area. If you are considering SLIT or OIT, I encourage you to talk to your doctor, read the research and talk to other parents who have been through this. As we move through the SLIT program, I'll keep you apprised of our progress.  If you are interested in talking to someone who has been through OIT, shoot me an email (food or leave a comment and I can get you in touch with someone.

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