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Mythbuster: Is it true that when someone eats a little bit of the food they are allergic to, it will increase their tolerance to that food and they will be “cured” of that allergy?

Giving someone a little bit of their allergen (the food they are allergic to) is not safe. It is not the same thing that is being done in Oral Immunotherapy (OIT), which is medically supervised.

In OIT, patients attend a clinic where they are monitored by highly-trained professionals. After testing to ensure they qualify, the person is given a tiny amount of the food that causes them to react (such as peanut), and over a prolonged period of time the dose (amount of the allergen) is gradually increased.

The goal of OIT is to induce “desensitization”, where the person can eat more of the food without having an allergic reaction than they were able to prior to OIT. This is not the same as tolerance which is the “complete and permanent resolution of clinical response following exposure to any amount of the identified allergenic food.” OIT needs medical supervision and oversight because allergic reactions occur frequently.

Bottom Line: Giving someone a little bit of the food they are allergic to is not safe. This is different than Oral Immunotherapy, which is medically supervised.

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Medical content reviewed by: Dr. Julia Upton, MD, FRCP(C) Clinical Immunology and Allergy

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