Oral Immunotherapy may be answer to food allergy issues

Exposing your kids to peanuts to help rid their allergies

Children with food allergies used to only have one option: avoid what you're allergic to. But thanks to food allergy research, there's another solution.

Like any mom, Christine Cassen will do anything to protect her children. Chloe is eight and Emma is five.

"They love horses, soccer, riding bikes," said Cassen, who is also a producer at WFAA. She's quiet and reserved, but outspoken when it comes to one topic.

"We had two scary experiences," recalled Cassen.

Both Emma and Chloe are allergic to peanuts. Cassen and her husband figured it out when one of the girls ate peanut butter and broke into hives.

"Now we were really afraid that one of them might not just get hives but might die," said Cassen.

Halloween became the family's worst nightmare.

"She was at school at a class party," said Cassen of her older daughter. "Teachers and parents knew she was allergic to peanuts, but forgot... someone gave her a Butter Finger."

Cassen left work in tears that day to rush her daughter to the doctor's office -- unsure of the severity of the reaction.

"When I was driving her to the doctor's office, she fell asleep in the car and for a minute I thought she was dead," said Cassen.

Months later, the girls are trying a risky but promising therapy called food Oral Immunotherapy, or "OIT."

Around for 15 years, OIT works over weeks or months. Doctors, over time, desensitize patients by giving them measured amounts of the food they're allergic to.

"It's very much a 180-degree turn in direction from strict avoidance to daily ingestion," said Dr. Robert Sugarman of Medical City Dallas. "Our success rate overall is 82 percent."

Chloe and Emma will get increasing doses of peanuts in order to build a tolerance. Their mom allowed us to come along to doctor appointments to show you how everything works.

"We have to look at the peanuts as medicine for them," said Cassen.

Cassen is blogging about her daughters experience with food Oral Immunotherapy. You can read more here.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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