A little over two years ago, I wrote a blog for Allergy Amulet called OIT—Is It For Me? In that piece, I talked about our family’s decision to pursue oral immunotherapy for our daughter and the thought process behind that decision. In this piece, I thought I’d offer my first-hand account of the OIT process having now been through it.
You see, I’m not just an Allergy Amulet team member, I’m also a food allergy mom. When I wrote this blog my daughter was four and had recently started the OIT process. Fast forward to 2019, and she’s successfully ingested peanuts and every tree nut (whole nuts)! she’s allergic to for three years without a reaction.
Has it been a long road to get here? For sure. Is oral immunotherapy right for everyone? Definitely not. However, for those that are interested in the process, I’ve come back to share the latest chapter in our journey.
So here we go!
Every April our daughter has blood drawn to get a reference point for how her food allergies are trending. This blood test measures Immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels in her body. IgE is the antibody that triggers food allergy symptoms.
Since OIT is still a fairly new process, even our allergist wasn’t sure if OIT would merely help her body better tolerate small amounts of nuts, or if it would help her to eventually outgrow her food allergies. So in true type-A mom fashion, I keep a spreadsheet of her IgE numbers that I update each year. What we have seen so far is that, since 2017, her IgE numbers have continually trended down!
Her body, three years later, can now tolerate a full serving of every nut she used to be extremely allergic to. Does this mean she’ll outgrow her food allergies? That would be great, but there’s no guarantee.
She also has to take a daily maintenance dose of her allergens. The maintenance aspect is one of the tougher parts of this process. Six days a week our daughter eats a serving of all the nuts she’s allergic to so that her body continues to recognize them as safe. For her that means eating 12 peanuts, three cashews, two pistachios, one hazelnut or one brazil nut (alternating days), two pecans, three walnuts, one macadamia nut, a few pine nuts, and every once in awhile a chestnut. That’s a lot of nuts for anyone, let alone a kindergartener!
After she eats the maintenance dose, she then has to do calm, quiet activities for an hour so as not to rev up her immune system. Trying to fit this in between school, piano lessons, gymnastics class, and swim lessons is a constant juggling act.
Would I change things? Not at all. This process has given her freedoms I prayed she would one day have—she can more freely eat birthday cupcakes, attend summer camp, and sit at whatever lunch table she likes at school. Don’t get me wrong, she still carries epinephrine and we still ask wait staff and friends about ingredients in their foods, but the weight of it all has lightened significantly.
The good news is that there are multiple companies in the pipeline and physicians training in OIT who aim to make it more mainstream—and hopefully more tolerable for many food allergy patients. If you think OIT may be a fit for your family, I’d encourage you to talk to your allergist and seek out additional information.
- Meg, Allergy Amulet’s CMO (Chief Marketing AND Mom Officer 😀)