WEDNESDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- Allergy shots have long been a mainstay in treating certain allergies, but until recently immunotherapy hasn't been an option for people with food allergies -- where the focus for patients and parents has been on avoiding the food entirely. Findings from two small new studies, however, show promise for the future of treating some food allergies.
Oral immunotherapy means gradually exposing a person to higher doses of the food protein -- such as egg protein -- that is their trigger for severe allergic reactions. By having the person consume the protein in a carefully controlled setting -- where they can receive emergency medical treatment if needed -- the goal is to build up a tolerance to the food over time.
Although oral immunotherapy doesn't appear to be a panacea, it may be an effective alternative for certain people with a variety of food allergies. The current studies looked at treating children with egg allergies and milk allergies.
The egg study included 55 children allergic to eggs, 40 of whom received a special oral egg immunotherapy daily for up to two years. Eleven of the 40 were able to consume eggs without having a reaction as much as three years later.
The milk study included 12 children allergic to cow's milk who were given small amounts of milk daily in a clinic for six weeks. All of the youngsters eventually were able to drink two glasses of milk a day, according to the study.
"Parents should have a feeling of optimism that there is a lot of work and effort going into active therapies for food allergies," said Dr. Todd Green, a food allergy specialist and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. He was not associated with the new studies.
Green added a note of caution, however: "At this point, these treatments aren't ready for widespread use, and they're not ready fo
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