Food allergies are common medical conditions that people of all ages may face.
A food allergy is a condition that causes the body’s immune system to react to a certain kind of food. This happens because the immune system identifies the food as a harmful foreign substance.
In the United States, 32 million people have food allergies, and 5.6 million of these people are children. In most cases, these food allergies are very mild, causing minor symptoms such as itching and vomiting but some individuals may experience anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction that could lead to death if they don’t receive immediate medical attention.
Food allergies can be difficult to deal with and individuals with these allergies have to be very careful with what they eat as even a small amount of the food they’re allergic to could cause a reaction.
Most of the time, people aren’t sure if the food they have outside of their home has allergy-causing ingredients or not, prompting them to avoid any food that wasn’t made especially for them.
Fortunately, immunotherapy treatments for food allergies are available today and they can help individuals with allergies find some much-needed relief from their symptoms, and hopefully, reintroduce certain foods into their diet.
We’ll now take a look at the kinds of food allergies that exist and the immunotherapy treatment available for these allergies.
Food allergies: What you need to know
Before we look into the treatment for these kinds of allergies, we need to understand what kinds of food cause them and why they happen.
Some of the symptoms of food allergies are similar to that of other allergies, like medication allergies.
The common symptoms of food allergies are:
- An itching sensation in the mouth
- Swelling in the lips, face, throat, or tongue
- Skin conditions, like hives and rashes
- Abdominal pain, which may be followed by diarrhea
Symptoms like swollen throats can be extremely dangerous as they block airways, making it hard to breathe. Many individuals with food allergies need to be rushed to the emergency room when this happens.
As to why some people are allergic to food in the first place, research has determined that it may be due to certain kinds of proteins in these foods that the immune systems of some individuals mistake for harmful substances. Food allergies can also be hereditary.
Technically, any kind of food can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive people; however, some foods are known to cause allergic reactions more often than others. These foods include:
- Tree nuts
Usually, the most common way to treat these allergies is to avoid certain foods completely.
Immunotherapy for food allergies
An alternative to avoiding allergy-causing foods is to go for a form of immunotherapy treatment for food allergies called oral immunotherapy (OIT).
Food allergies cannot be cured completely but they can be desensitized, meaning the immune system can be conditioned to accept the food and not cause any allergic reactions.
OIT involves having the patient ingest a small amount of food protein, which has been diluted in a liquid, every day. The amount they’re given will be too small to trigger an allergic reaction.
Over the course of the treatment, the dose will be increased. After about six to nine months into the treatment, patients will be given a bigger dose of the food protein called a maintenance dose. This dose may be a normal serving-size portion of the allergen food and it needs to be taken daily to keep allergic reactions at bay.
This treatment is a lifelong one and patients will need to take the maintenance dose every day their whole lives. Stopping this treatment may lead to the allergy coming back after some time.
Prerequisites for therapy
Anyone of any age can qualify for OIT. In most cases, patients will need to have a confirmed food allergy or a suspected one.
Before undergoing OIT, patients will need to go through a medical examination to see if they are fit for the treatment as well as skin tests or blood tests to identify what foods they are allergic to.
Immunotherapy treatment for food allergies can be life-changing
Living with a food allergy could mean missing out on certain foods in your diet and having to be extremely careful with what you eat. With treatments like OIT, individuals with food allergies can finally get a chance to overcome their allergies and eat what they want without fear.