OIT is Oral Immunotherapy--according to Brian P. Vickery, MD, instructor for the department of pediatrics in the division of pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke University School of Medicine--it is a process of, “the careful daily administration of gradually increasing doses of allergen…[that can modify] the allergic immune response, and the amount of allergen required to cause a reaction is increased to levels well above those which would be expected in an accidental ingestion.”[i] This procedure should not be undertaken at home and is still in its experimental stages.
The process is currently under investigation and study. Based upon my reading and understanding of Dr. Nowak-Wegrzyn’s opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology, some of the considerations are: (1) whether the long term impact and possible benefits of giving OIT outweigh the long term benefits of totally avoiding the allergic-food in hopes that the body will naturally develop a tolerance to it; (2) the possibly dangerous side effects of using OIT to try to develop a tolerance to the allergy-food because there may be allergic reactions during this process; and (3) factors to deal with during the process that may make it unpredictable such as variables that may affect treatment tolerance like illness, exercise, dosing on an empty stomach and asthma. The researchers appear to state that it is too soon to draw conclusions as to whether the short term benefits OIT outweigh the risks assoicated with it and the hope that long term food avoidance may be a more solid solution.[ii]
As a mother of six and seven year old boys who are allergic to egg and egg/dairy respectively, I continue to be interested in this therapy. But, both our pediatric allergist and naturopathic physician concur that until our older son outgrows his seasonal environmental allergies that manifest in itchy eyes, sneezing and perhaps a slight cough, we should not attempt any food allergy drops. Hopefully we will get to the point where either they both outgrow their food allergies naturally through our avoidance practices or the studies advance to the point where everyone involved (physicians, my husband and me, and our sons) feel okay about trying one of these proactive therapies. Until then we will watch and wait.
[i] “Could oral immunotherapy be the first treatment for food allergy?,” 9/1/2010, http://www.pediatricsupersite.com/view.aspx?rid=67902
[ii] Nowak-Wegrzyn, M.D., Anna, “Is Oracle Immunotherapy the Cure for Food Allergies,” Allergy and Clinical Immunology, posted 8/26/2010.