Oral Immunotherapy (OIT)
What is Oral Immunotherapy?
Oral immunotherapy (OIT) is when you feed an allergic person an increasing amount of their allergen to help their immune system tolerate food proteins/allergens. For example, an individual who suffers from a peanut allergy would be served small amounts of peanut protein. The amount would gradually increase in an office or research setting over a period of time. However, individuals who receive OIT will still have to carry epinephrine, read labels, and still be cautious of their food allergies. OIT is not expected to lead to the ingestion of the allergen without limitation.
Is OIT effective?
OIT has an 85% success rate in clinical trials and peanut, egg, and milk OIT have been shown to desensitize by 60 to 80%. OIT may not be as equally effective for other food allergies.
What are the side effects of OIT?
Common side effects of OIT include abdominal pain, vomiting, and cramping. Many patients have developed eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an allergic disease that causes difficulty swallowing vomiting, and abdominal pain. Other side effects include oral itching, hives, rash, swelling, wheezing, and even anaphylaxis.
Zalia's OIT Story
What are Zalia's allergies?
We found out that Zalia was allergic to peanuts when she was 11 months old. We were at an engagement party at a Golf Club, and she was playing on the floor near our table. We noticed that she had something in her hand, and realized that she picked up a peanut off the floor. Her eyes immediately started watering, and her face started to swell up. After going to the hospital, they gave us a prescription for epinephrine and told us that she was allergic to eggs, dairy, and soy.
We saw different allergists over the years, who all told us the same thing - there's no cure, but there was a chance she may grow out of her allergies. This advice did not fill me with confidence.
How did you discover OIT?
I decided that there must be a better solution than "avoidance", so I started researching. We are from Australia, and over here, OIT is not well-known. Eventually, my internet searches led me to a boy named Oliver, who had been to Dr. Jones in Utah and saw great results. Dr. Jones required patients to stay in the US for 8-12 months, which I couldn't do, so I kept searching. I then found Dr. Agrawal who had an international protocol where we could stay for 4-6 weeks and then continue back home, so I booked it. It was very effective...
Did Zalia react to the treatment?
I was inwardly terrified that Zalia would react to the first dose, but outwardly doing my best to appear calm for her. The only reaction Zalia has had throughout the whole process was a slightly sore stomach 20 minutes after dosing. This was because we were up dosing faster than normal due to our limited time overseas.
Was OIT effecitve for Zalia?
Zalia's maintenance dose will be 7000 mg (roughly 7 peanuts). It's been 14 months since we started, and she is up to 4700 mg. We have gone slower than what the doctor planned for us, but I'm happy. She has had no reactions, and we will get to maintenance soon enough. She started with peanut flour in water, then increased to peanut pieces which we measured out on special scales. My hope is to be on maintenance for a year or so and then, depending on test results, hopefully, it will drop down to only dosing a few times a week. It doesn't interfere with our lives at all (like some people think it does). It is just another part of our dinner routine each night.
I am so glad we made the decision to visit Freedom Allergy; our lives have been so different since we got back. Zalia has tried so many new foods and is loving it - especially the chocolate!