Food Allergy: Children’s Food Allergies Can Be Treated With This Therapy

Food Allergy: Around 4 percent of children worldwide are struggling with food allergies. New research has provided guidelines for overcoming these allergies. Experts compare this to training for a marathon. Food allergies can pose significant challenges for children. Sharing food at school could increase their risk of allergic reactions, causing worry and stress for both the children and their parents. This can also affect their social life and plans to attend gatherings or parties.

For the first time, standardized guidelines have been developed to help build tolerance in children towards foods that can trigger allergies.

This therapy is called oral immunotherapy. It involves giving children small amounts of allergenic foods like peanuts. The amount is gradually increased to help develop their tolerance over time.

Up until now, doctors had very few evidence-based guidelines to share with parents who were providing their children with immunotherapy. However, these new guidelines will be very helpful for doctors. They will be able to work more effectively with families of children suffering from food allergies.

Douglas Mack, the lead author of this study and a pediatric specialist at McMaster University in Canada, says, “This is a historic study in our field because this has never been done before and the process has never been standardized. We really need guidance about oral immunotherapy.”

How common are food allergy?

Food allergy are relatively common worldwide, affecting about 4% of children and 1% of adults. In Western countries, these numbers are slightly higher, with 8% of children and 4% of adults experiencing food allergies.

What one child can eat safely might cause serious problems for another. For instance, peanut allergies are more prevalent in Britain, America, and Australia, whereas they are less common in Asia. In Asia, allergies to wheat, eggs, and milk are more frequent.

Over the past two decades, the number of people with food allergies has been on the rise. Health scientists believe this increase is due to improved cleanliness and hygiene. The theory is that when children are exposed to fewer germs, their immune systems start reacting against common substances like peanuts and milk. A lack of vitamin D might also contribute to this problem.

Health authorities in many countries suggest that to prevent allergies, children should be gradually exposed to allergenic foods. Families with a history of food allergies should follow the guidance of a pediatric specialist.

Oral immunotherapy has a long and successful history in treating children with food allergies. It was first used in 1908 to treat a child’s egg allergy. Initially, the child was given a very small portion of an egg, and after six months, he could eat eggs without any issues.

Julia Apton, a clinical immunologist at a children’s hospital in Canada, says, “We have a treatment that works and is widely agreed upon by doctors across various regions. Studies are being conducted on different methods to improve treatments, enhance safety, reduce medical needs, and increase accessibility to treatments.”

How Oral Immunotherapy Assist

During oral immunotherapy, caregivers must act like novice healthcare workers, ensuring that a child’s exposure to allergenic foods does not reach dangerous levels. It is common for children to experience side effects like stomach pain and vomiting during this time.

Epton told DW, “Families should be educated about food allergies, severe allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis, and immunotherapy. They should also learn how to properly feed the allergenic foods, what precautions to take, when to treat, and when to contact doctors.”

Researchers indicate that about one-third of patients were not properly prepared before starting treatment.

Mac from McMaster University says, “If families are not prepared for oral immunotherapy, they will not be successful or it may become unsafe. These families must administer the therapy daily, making these guidelines very important.”

This guidance is specifically designed for doctors and not directly for parents and families. Therefore, it is essential for parents to collaborate with doctors to help their children manage and safely treat food allergies. Although the study also provides useful information for parents and caregivers.

Apton explains, “There is a strong agreement about the key safety recommendations and potential outcomes. For example, it is crucial to keep asthma under control before and during immunotherapy. Following the safety and dosage guidelines is also important.”

Apton likens this therapy to training for a marathon. Children need to undergo this therapy daily. If they completely stop oral immunotherapy, their tolerance decreases.

Apton adds, “The improvement many people see from immunotherapy depends on how much they are exposed to the allergens in food. Often, a lot of counseling is needed for this. It is very helpful for families to see that there is broad agreement on this therapy.”

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Rishika Choudhury

Content Writer

CATEGORIES Business Agriculture Technology Environment Health Education
Rishita Diwan – Chief editor

Rishika Choudhury – Editor


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