Food allergies in the United States are quite common. About 32 million Americans are believed to have a food allergy. This number includes 5.6 million children under the age of 18. There are 8 major food allergens. These allergens include milk, soy, wheat, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and fish. According to the CDC, the number of children with food allergies has increased over the years. One major concern about food allergies is that they have the potential to cause anaphylaxis. This is a severe allergic reaction that is sometimes fatal.
While there is no cure for food allergies, there are some treatment options available. One promising food allergy treatment is called oral immunotherapy. If you would like to know more, here are the answers to three frequently asked questions about oral immunotherapy.
1. How Does Oral Immunotherapy Work?
When people with food allergies have contact with certain allergens, their immune system sends chemicals into the bloodstream, causing allergy symptoms. Oral immunotherapy is a type of food allergy treatment that's used to stave off these allergy symptoms.
During oral immunotherapy, a person is given an increasing amount of the allergen over a long period of time. It's important to note that oral immunotherapy won't cure the food allergy, but it will offer protection against experiencing severe allergy symptoms, including anaphylaxis. This entire process is commonly referred to as desensitization.
2. Is Oral Immunotherapy Safe?
It may seem counterproductive, and also a little scary, to purposely consume an allergen. According to allergists, oral immunotherapy is a type of food allergy treatment that is completely safe. However, individuals who go through oral immunotherapy may experience certain side effects when the allergen is increased.
These side effects include oral itching and abdominal pain. Some may still experience allergic reactions when given the allergen, but in most cases, these allergic reactions are mild.
3. What Are the Benefits of Oral Immunotherapy?
Some might question the wisdom of trying oral immunotherapy if it won't cure the food allergy. When it comes to this type of food allergy treatment, even though it is not a cure, there are some major benefits. These include:
- It won't be necessary to invest so much time and energy into reading food labels
- There will be less stress and anxiety at social gatherings where certain foods are served
- It will be easier to relax when eating out at a restaurant or other places
These benefits are especially important for those with severe food allergies, where even indirect contact with a certain allergen can cause anaphylaxis.
If you need food allergy treatment, find a doctor to help you.