If you or your kid has a food allergy...please listen to this. My 19-year-old son has a dairy allergy that has landed him in the emergency room more times than I can count. His lips swell, he gets hives, his throat closes and he has trouble breathing. It is awful as a parent to see your child go through that.

However, we finally have hope. After years of being told there's nothing more we can do, oral immunotherapy (OIT) is giving hope to people with food allergies. My son is now part of a new oral immunotherapy program to increase his tolerance to dairy and reduce severe allergic reactions at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Previously in trials, this new treatment option was so successful, that is has become an accepted thereapy, offering promise to kids who have many types of food allergies.

Here is how it works. First, CHOP tested him to make sure he can handle a small amount of dairy.  If his reaction was too severe, he would not be allowed in the program. Fortunately, he qualified for the therapy and started with a small dose of baked milk each day for about two weeks.  Believe it or not, the "dose" is actually those little goldfish crackers we give to kids. The have just the right of amount of baked milk for the program.

We then go back to CHOP every two weeks.  At that appointment, they increase his dose of baked milk, which will become his new daily dose.  The next dose will be in the form of a baked cake. The dose continues to increase until he can ingest a reasonable amount of dairy without having a severe reaction. By the end of the therapy, he will not be considered cured, but hopefully dairy will not send him to the emergency room.

It is hard to believe that he actually eats the food that usually makes him sick. The idea is to raise the threshold that may trigger a reaction and desensitize his body to the allergen. Once he is out of the program, he will have to have dairy every day of his life so his body will remain desensitized. The therapy can also be done with eggs, nuts or other food allergies. Peanut, egg and milk oral immunotherapy have been shown to desensitize approximately 60 to 80% of patients studied.

peanut in little girl hand
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This type of therapy may also be available as a prescription drug for people with peanut allergies to take in the comfort of their home. We have always been told the only way to prevent reactions is to avoid the food that causes an allergic reaction in our child.

Currently a new treatment options for people with a peanut allergy is in development. The drug is called Palforiza made by Aimmune Therapeutics.  It hoped that this pill  our children would take daily to help build up their tolerance to peanut allergens. If this works, it would be a major breakthrough in preventing life-threatening peanut-related allergic reactions.

Immunotherapy is a a promising treatment option for people who suffer with food allergies. If it is successful, it will save lives in the future.

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