While there is no cure for food allergies, some people suffering from allergies have found success with desensitization techniques aimed at reprogramming their immune system to accept the allergen. Most such programs involve consuming miniscule amounts of the food allergen until the body builds up a tolerance. The two main types of treatment are sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), in which the food is placed underneath the tongue, and oral immunotherapy (OIT), which involves swallowing the allergen.
Both techniques have shown promise as potential food allergy treatments, but until now little has been known about which method is best. A recent study published in theJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunologylooked at the use of SLIT or OIT in the treatment of children with milk allergies. The children were re-tested after 15 months of daily allergen therapy.
It was found that one in ten children who underwent SLIT passed the challenge, while 7/10 passed after OIT. However, children undergoing OIT experienced more frequent side effects, including allergic reactions. Also, following the treatment period, 40% of subjects lost their tolerance to milk.
The study’s authors concluded that neither SLIT nor OIT, as currently administered, offers a suitable treatment for food allergies. The authors speculate that longer periods of OIT or SLIT treatment may result in higher levels of desensitization.