Food Allergy Treatments in the Pipeline

Your best defense against a food allergy is to avoid the ingredients that cause your problems. Although there's no cure, researchers are testing out new treatments that may help down the road.

Oral Immunotherapy

Experts are checking to see if it can lower the chances of a serious reaction.

Here's how it works. In studies, people get a tiny amount of the food they're allergic to, while a doctor monitors them for any signs of trouble. Over time, they're given a little more of the food. So far this method seems to work best for peanut, milk, and egg allergies.

In one study, kids with egg allergies were given small doses of egg-white powder every day. After 10 months, more than half of the children could eat the equivalent of one egg with few or no symptoms. After almost 2 years of the treatment, 75% of the kids were practically symptom-free.

Keep in mind that these studies are done in carefully controlled situations. Don't try this at home -- you could have a life-threatening reaction.

Allergy Drops

Another similar treatment is called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). It's not been approved yet in the U.S. for food allergies, but research is underway.

With SLIT, a doctor puts a few drops containing the food under the person's tongue for a minute or two. The doctor watches closely to make sure there's no serious reaction. Over time, the dose is increased.

So far, researchers have tested SLIT for peanut, milk, peach, and kiwi allergies. The studies show that it works for many people while they're getting this treatment, but experts are still looking at whether it lasts after people stop getting the daily doses.

Asthma Medication

It's still early in the research stage, but the asthma medicine Xolair (omalizumab) may make oral immunotherapy work better. Researchers are studying it to see if it may help by itself. Xolair is approved in the U.S. to treat allergic asthma and a condition called chronic idiopathic urticaria, or chronic hives.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on November 17, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Food Allergy Treatment."

Burks, A. The New England Journal of Medicine, July 2012.

Kim, E. Current Opinion in Pediatrics, October 2012.

Patil, S. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, December 2010.

Srivastava, K. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, January 2005.

Tang, M. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, January 2009.

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