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Weighing the benefits and risks of oral immunotherapy in clinical practice

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Food allergies are common and affect 6‐8% of children in the United States; they pose a significant burden on the quality of life of children with allergy and their caregivers due to multiple daily restrictions. Despite the recommended dietary avoidance, reactions tend to occur due to unintentional exposure to the allergenic food trigger. Fear of accidental ingestions with potentially severe reactions, including anaphylaxis and death, creates anxiety in individuals with food allergy. Oral immunotherapy has emerged as a form of active and potentially disease-modifying treatment for common food allergies encountered in childhood. The efficacy of oral immunotherapy is high, with the majority of participants achieving desensitization and, as a result, protection from trace exposures and improved quality of life. The main risk of oral immunotherapy consists of allergic reactions to treatment. In general, rates of allergic reactions and anaphylaxis are reported to be higher in individuals pursuing therapy options, but most subjects who undergo oral immunotherapy will likely experience mild or moderate reactions during treatment. Adverse events tend to reduce in both frequency and number in the maintenance period. The use of immune modulators alongside oral immunotherapy has been suggested, with the aim to improve efficacy and safety, and to facilitate the overall process. It is evident that the landscape of food allergy management is changing and that the future looks brighter, with different options emerging over time. The process of how to choose the appropriate option becomes a discussion between the clinician and the patient, which involves a joint review of the current medical evidence but also the patient's preference for balancing particular attributes of the treatment. By working together, providers and patients will ensure achievement of the best possible outcome for children with food allergies.
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Keywords: anaphylaxis; children; desensitization; epinephrine; food allergy; immunomodulators; oral immunotherapy; shared decision making; sustained unresponsiveness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: From the Section of Pediatric Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, and

Publication date: March 1, 2021

More about this publication?
  • Allergy and Asthma Proceedings is a peer reviewed publication dedicated to distributing timely scientific research regarding advancements in the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma and immunology. Its primary readership consists of allergists and pulmonologists.

    The goal of the Proceedings is to publish articles with a predominantly clinical focus which directly impact quality of care for patients with allergic disease and asthma and by having the potential to directly impact the quality of patient care. AAP welcomes the submission of original works including peer-reviewed original research and clinical trial results. Additionally, as the official journal of the Eastern Allergy Conference (EAC), AAP will publish content from EAC poster sessions as well as review articles derived from EAC lectures.

    Featured topics include asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, food allergies, allergic skin diseases, diagnostic techniques, allergens, and treatment modalities. Published material includes peer-reviewed original research, clinical trials and review articles.

    Articles marked "F" offer free full text for personal noncommercial use only.

    The journal is indexed in Thomson Reuters Web of Science and Science Citation Index Expanded, plus the National Library of Medicine's PubMed service.
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