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Original Article


Oral Desensitization in Children With Cow’s Milk Allergy


L Zapatero, E Alonso, V Fuentes, MI Martínez

Allergy Department, Hospital Materno Infantil Gregorio Marañón, Madrid, Spain

J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 2008; Vol. 18(5): 389-396



Introduction: Current treatment of food allergies consists of the elimination of the offending food from the diet. Desensitization or tolerance induction can be an alternative for those children who have not achieved tolerance spontaneously. We propose a cow’s milk desensitization protocol carried out in an outpatient setting over a 9-10 week period.

Patients and method: Eighteen children older than 4 years with cow’s milk protein allergy confirmed by open oral challenge with milk underwent a desensitization protocol beginning with 0.05 mL of cow’s milk, reaching 1 mL on the first day, and increasing the dosage weekly until a dose of 200-250 mL of milk taken once a day was tolerated.
Results: By the end of the desensitization protocol, 16 of the 18 patients tolerated 200-250 mL of cow’s milk in a single daily dose. The median length of the process was 14 weeks (interquartile range, 11-17 weeks). One patient withdrew due to recurrent symptoms with 2 mL and another reached a tolerance of 40 mL of milk a day. During the program, 11 children (68.75%) presented symptoms that were generally mild but which increased the length of the protocol. At the time of writing, the 16 patients who completed the program continue to tolerate milk, 13 of them for more than a year.

Conclusions: Tolerance of cow’s milk was achieved in 16 out of 18 patients who took part in this study. One patient only tolerated 40 mL, which prevents the risk of reactions caused by the inadvertent intake of the food substance; 1 patient is still on a milk-free diet. We believe this cow’s milk desensitization protocol to be effective and reasonably safe.

Key words: Cow’s milk allergy. Oral food desensitization. Specific oral tolerance induction.