Oral immunotherapy and food allergies

A new oral immunotherapy program to treat food allergies is now available at CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital. A first in Quebec where there are 60,000 children living with a food allergy.

Find out how this program could make life easier for your kids.

What is oral immunotherapy?

Oral immunotherapy (OIT) programs, such as the one offered at the Sainte-Justine CHU, consist of giving daily light oral doses of the food causing the allergy.

Specifically, an increasing amount of the allergen is administered to the patient until the maintenance dose is reached. This dose corresponds to the maximum dose that a person allergic to a food can ingest without experiencing adverse effects. This treatment, which can last several years, requires no medication.

According to Dr. Philippe Bégin of the Association of Allergists and Immunologists of Quebec, OIT allows:

  • Protect allergic reactions during accidental contact.
  • Reinstate the allergenic food in the diet.
  • Eliminate the allergy permanently.

It is currently estimated that the success rate of oral immunotherapy programs is approximately 80%. Experts also estimate that 50% of patients can be cured completely of their food allergy, 5 years after the start of treatments. Impressive forecasts that give a lot of hope!

On the other hand, although all this seems simple, OIT treatments must be performed by a doctor. First, because they require very close follow-ups. Patients must visit the hospital on a regular basis. Also, because ingestion of too much of an allergen can cause severe anaphylactic shock. This is not a treatment to be done at home.

The pilot project of Sainte-Justine UHC Hospital

The CHU Sainte-Justine oral immunotherapy food allergy treatment project received $ 800,000 in funding from the Government of Quebec in 2017 and $ 780,000 from Bye Bye Allergy. This led to the launch of the three-year pilot project.

Thanks to the financial efforts of the government and the organization, the CHU Sainte-Justine project will be able, in its first year, to treat 225 children who have a severe case of food allergy, and 275 in the two following years. The program is aimed exclusively at children because the results are more conclusive.

The goal behind this oral immunotherapy program is to develop expertise in the field and then transfer this new knowledge to other health institutions. Thus, we hope to see more OIT clinics open in the province.

Who is the oral immunotherapy for?

To begin an oral immunotherapy treatment, here are the characteristics that must be observed in a patient:

  • Have signs and symptoms of allergy, and receive a positive allergy test.
  • Is not taking medications to control allergies or is taking but intends to reduce their intake.
  • Feel side effects to drugs that are meant to control an allergy.

On the contrary, the following factors may prevent a person from accessing OIT treatment:

  • Have a negative allergy test.
  • Have a positive allergy test, but do not show any signs or symptoms of allergy.
  • Suffer from untreated asthma
  • Take medication for high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems.

Are you interested in the oral immunotherapy program? Visit the website (French) of the Oral Immunotherapy Clinic at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center.

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