Oral Immunotherapy In Children: An Overview

Health & Medical Blog

If your child has recently been diagnosed with a food allergy, you may be preparing for the days ahead – notifying schools, reading food labels a second and even a third time, and training your child and all caregivers on how to administer a rescue medication should an allergic reaction become severe. There is, however, a chance that your child may qualify for a new but promising treatment known as oral immunotherapy.

What is Oral Immunotherapy?

An allergic reaction to a food occurs when the body doesn't recognize the food as "safe." The goal of oral immunotherapy is to allow the body to slowly recognize the food as safe and eliminate the risk of future allergic reactions.

Oral immunotherapy is performed under the trained eye of an allergist. Your child will be fed small doses of their allergen, usually mixed in with a "safe" food, and overtime, the amount they're given will increase. Eventually, your child will be able to eat large doses of the food without having an allergic reaction.

Does My Child Qualify for Oral Immunotherapy?

While oral immunotherapy is a promising therapy for food allergy sufferers, unfortunately, not all children qualify to participate.

If your child has experienced a severe reaction (analphylaxis) to a certain food, oral immunotherapy is not recommended. A severe reaction includes oxygen deficiency (throat swelling), loss of consciousness, or neurological complications, such as confusion or loss of motor skills. If your child's reaction is less severe, they may qualify. Other things that can disqualify a child for the therapy include asthma and the required use of oral steroids for a persistent medical condition. If you're unsure if your child is a good candidate for oral immunotherapy, consult with their allergist for further information.  

What are the Risks Associated with the Treatment?

Even though the results of past oral immunotherapy studies have proven promising, there are risks associated with the treatment.

There's always a risk of a severe allergic reaction, and this is why the therapy is performed in a hospital setting under the supervision of an allergist. It is never recommended that this therapy be performed at home, even if your child has never had a severe reaction to the food before. Another risk may be that the treatment doesn't work for your child, so they may be put through unnecessary medical testing without positive results.

If oral immunotherapy seems like something that could have an impact on your child's life, consult with their allergist. Even if your child doesn't qualify for the treatment, there may be things you can do to minimize their risks of reaction. 



24 February 2016