The OIT Dilemma
Sometimes I ask myself “Is this really worth it?” after waking up at 4 am to stuff myself with a big breakfast and eat a bunch of peanuts and sesame powder before hockey practice. The truth is, up until a year ago, I truly didn’t think doing Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) was worth it. Now, I have come to realize that I was completely wrong.
Every morning, I do Oral Immunotherapy for my peanut and sesame allergies. Since I am on the maintenance dose right now, I eat 8 peanuts and 2.5 grams of sesame powder every morning. The goal of Oral Immunotherapy is for people with food allergies to become immune to their allergens, as the body builds up tolerance to the food through eating what the person is allergic to everyday, starting with extremely tiny amounts and increasing the portions every week. Eventually, you complete the treatment and stick to being on a maintenance dose (which I am on) where you eat the same amount of your allergen everyday until your blood test results indicate that you are not allergic anymore. It will take a few years of being on the maintenance dose, but eventually OIT patients become completely immune to their previous allergens.
A lot of people think this sounds 100% amazing and easy, but in my experience, it is definitely not. Doing OIT takes a lot more dedication, time, responsibility, and commitment than one would expect. Eating peanuts everyday for breakfast doesn’t sound that bad right? I wish it was easy. For me, the hardest part about doing OIT is the exercise rule. After you take your dose of your allergen in the morning, you can’t exercise for at least 2 hours after. This wouldn’t be a huge deal for a lot of people, as many kids/teenagers just go straight to school after they eat in the morning. However, I play hockey and tennis and I’ve had to deal with countless morning practices before school. This has required me to wake up at insanely early times, just so I could eat my peanuts and sesame at least 2 hours before morning practice. If practice is at 7:30 am, I have to be done eating my peanuts and sesame by 5:30 am. One of my hardest OIT memories was at a hockey tournament in 8th grade, when I had a game at 6 am. I remember waking up at 3:30 am, just so I could have enough time between eating my peanuts and playing my huge hockey game. Thankfully, OIT has gotten easier because I am now able to take it at any time of the day, instead of just the mornings, because I have been doing it for 4+ years. I think the other main struggle for doing OIT, in my opinion, is honestly just the constant routine and the idea of doing it always weighing on your back. With doing OIT, you can’t really skip many days, if any at all, and eventually eating peanuts and sesame everyday for breakfast gets really old. I don’t love the taste of either, and knowing you’re basically required to eat it everyday can sometimes be exhausting, and sometimes I feel like I need a break. OIT is also hard because you have to follow all of the specific rules and numbers because if you mess up, you could have an allergic reaction. That means always taking it on a full stomach (even if you’re not hungry enough to eat food before) and always measuring/counting out your dose precisely. Although OIT has brought some difficulty and stress into my life, I have come to realize that the benefits highly outweigh the costs.
OIT has made me so much more confident in every aspect regarding my life with food allergies. Because I can eat sesame and peanuts without a reaction, as I eat it everyday, my stress levels when going to a friend’s house to eat, out to dinner, or on vacation, has gone down tremendously. Even though I still am allergic to sunflower seeds and tree nuts, knowing that I don’t have to worry about having a reaction to sesame or peanuts is life changing, as I have had my worst reactions to sesame and peanut, and they are generally in more foods at restaurants. I can now walk into panda express and not have an allergic reaction thanks to OIT. I can eat a snickers bar thanks to OIT. I can eat a sesame burger bun thanks to OIT. I don’t have to worry about whether or not the sushi I’m ordering has sesame in it or not, because I know I’ll be safe even if I have a little bit of it, thanks to OIT. I don’t have to stress about the person I’m sitting next to on the airplane eating peanuts anymore thanks to OIT (even though I do despise the smell of peanuts). You will not regret doing Oral Immunotherapy. It’s life changing. It has changed my life and how I go about daily life with food allergies to an extreme extent. I feel so much more confident and so much less scared.