Allergy Treatment for Kids
January 26, 2010 6:12 AM   Subscribe

I've heard about a woman outside of Boston who cures kids' allergies by starting with an infinitesimal amount of the allergen, and slowly exposing the body to greater amounts, until the allergy is overcome. A similar process was used in a study at Duke recently. Is there anyone else in the USA using this process (successfully) to treat/cure kids' allergies, that you know of?
posted by LittlePumpkin to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's similar to how allergy shots work now. Exposure to the allergen, slowly increase, and supposedly your reaction is decreased or cured.

But it's a very lenghty process, we're talking years (like 5 minimum) and you have to do it religiously, not a here and there oh I forgot to get my shot, so what.
posted by stormpooper at 6:18 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Anecdotal: When I was but a wee boy, my friend was super allergic to poison ivy and bee stings. Every day he took several small round tablets from the same jar and gulped them down. They were some kind of poison ivy extract, and the idea was that he was making himself less allergic. Not sure if it worked or not. I don't remember him getting it, but I straight up DON'T get it, so it's hard to be sure.
posted by TomMelee at 6:19 AM on January 26, 2010

What stormpooper (heh) said. I had pretty severe allergies when I was a kid, as did my sister and mother. We all got weekly shots for two or three years. I am no longer allergic to cats (Hurrah! I have 4!) or anything else for that matter but my sister and mother weren't so lucky; the shots appeared to have no effect on them.

From what I remember, that's essentially what they did; inject you will trace amounts until your body built up an immunity.
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:34 AM on January 26, 2010

I have had allergy shots. One round when I was 8 or so and again when I was in my 20's. It's a commitment but not 5 years!! It's once a week for a month or two then every month for a while. It was totally worth it for me. I am still allergic to dust, but not as severely, and my grass, and tree allergies are gone. I just got a referral to an allergist from my GP, but I'm in Canada not USA.
posted by sadtomato at 6:36 AM on January 26, 2010

This is how allergy shots work.
posted by OmieWise at 6:36 AM on January 26, 2010

Best answer: I have heard that this does NOT work for food allergies, only enviromental ones, like ragweed, molds, cats/dogs, etc.

I'm by no means an immunologist, but within the last year or so there have been some well-publicized results of successful clinical trials at Cambridge and at Duke involving gradual desensitization to the allergen. However, I believe that these protocols are generally still in the experimental stages. Here's a list of ongoing clinical trials concerning the treatment of peanut allergies; locations are listed in the descriptions, so you might be able to find something there.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:42 AM on January 26, 2010

Addendum: I realized after I posted that you weren't specifically talking about peanut allergies. The Cambridge study only involved peanut allergies, while the Duke study involved both peanut and egg allergies. If you're concerned with something other than peanuts, you can search the website for trials concerning those specific types of allergies.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:45 AM on January 26, 2010

Best answer: When I was 12 (1992 in Mesa, AZ) I started something similar to this but never finished it. This was the clinic I went to. IIRC the program was really new. I don't remember why I didn't finish, but my dad lost his job near that time, so losing our insurance may have done it.

I loaded the stuff into a syringe and then squirted it under my tongue and held it there until it was absorbed; I was supposed to do it three times a week. I often forgot. The stuff actually tasted kind of good in an herbal sort of way.

I was tested with the skin prick method to see what I was actually allergic to, and the 'serum' was tailor made for me. I was also given benadryl to treat bad attacks and an epi pen in case I had a bad reaction. The 'serum' treatment was in addition to treating my allergies, so it wasn't as if I was given the stuff and left suffering.

I never had any side effects from the treatment, but I didn't finish so I still have allergies. This all happened almost 18 years ago, so my memory may be spotty.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:50 AM on January 26, 2010

Response by poster: Clinical trials or (even better) actual clinics that treat kids' allergies is exactly what i'm looking for -- thanks, Shoes and Johnny... (and thanks to all for responding).
posted by LittlePumpkin at 6:56 AM on January 26, 2010

Best answer: Also, the skin prick method that they did on me was done on my arm instead of my back and was pretty much painless. From what I've heard about the horrible skin prick tests done on people's backs, I got off easy. Dr. Agren was a really nice guy too, and according to the website he's still the Doctor running the clinic. From what I understand he was one of the 'pioneers' in this particular treatment (I heard this from an adult friend of the family.)

You might be able to call the clinic and ask them for a referral of an Allergist in your area.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:58 AM on January 26, 2010

TooFewShoes - my husband goes to the same place. He has horrible seasonal allergies. Just horrible. He tried this route and had great success with the under-the-tongue serum as well as getting a steroid shot.

The nice thing about the serum is that it's an at-home treatment - you don't have to go to the dr. to get your shot.

We only have good things to say about this method of treatment.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:00 AM on January 26, 2010

I took allergy shots from the time I was 6 until I was 18 and again in my mid-twenties. This is the exact process of allergy shots, and while it made it easier for me to live through pollen season, they didn't do much for my animal allergies. The allergist advised me back then (early 80s) that it was hard to immunize against animal allergies because there's such a high risk of reaction. I think they still require you to get shots at a place where there is a doctor, because of the problems with reactions. I had two reactions over all that time, one was early on when I just started and the second was much later in life. They were scary, but not that bad.

I did them twice a week or once a week for years and it was a bit better. I still could never pet an animal and then touch my eyes or scratch my skin without hives and swelling.

The only reason I don't get them now is because it's just a time sink and I'm too lazy.
posted by teleri025 at 7:19 AM on January 26, 2010

This is the oldest method for getting rid of allergies. It works, and I am living proof.

I used to be allergic to cat dander. One time I petted my grandma's cat for 45 minutes and broke out into hives and got a fever that lasted for days.

I had allergy shots for years and years when I was younger. They worked. I can live with and pet a cat for hours.

The other plus is that needles never bother me anymore.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:53 AM on January 26, 2010

I had a doctor tell me recently that her child was undergoing such treatment for a nut allergy (not sure if it was peanut or tree nut) at National Jewish in Denver.
posted by freezer cake at 8:45 AM on January 26, 2010

When I visited an allergist a couple years ago, there was a flyer discussing sublingual allergy drops. It looks like there are some clinical trials for these, e.g., this one. (which was the first thing google brought up on "sublingual allergy drops clinical trials kids").
posted by leahwrenn at 9:20 AM on January 26, 2010

It's a commitment but not 5 years!!

Depends on the allergy and the patient. Some, like my cousin, it's a commitment of 5 years. My own allergies were going to be a 5 year commitment. I opted to get wood floors and wash the cat. :)

Poison ivy I know can't be burned/inhaled due to extreme pulmonary reaction, even fatality. It's interesting to think that one could have the allergen systemically in the form of a pill. I wonder if that was true or not.
posted by stormpooper at 10:15 AM on January 26, 2010

AnecdoteFilter. I'm allergic to mosquito bites(big welts, red, runny itchy eyes), but over the course of summer, as I get bitten, the severity reduces. Allergy desensitization should be done with supervision, but it's fairly common.
posted by theora55 at 10:59 AM on January 26, 2010

I completed allergy desensitization shots relatively recently, every week for 2 years, then every month for another 2. Do let me emphasize the every week part--for two years, every Tuesday afternoon found me taking a long lunch, getting on Metro, going to the doc's office, where I'd get the shot then have to wait around for 30 minutes, in case I had a severe reaction.

After the maintenance period, I was pronounced more-or-less cured. Before the shots, I would regularly miss work due to seasonal allergies, even while taking big-deal antihistamines. Afterwards, I take a Zyrtec daily, and otherwise have no allergy symptoms, sleeping with the windows open even in spring. They work, but they are, indeed, a big commitment, and there is no half-way benefit. the at-home sublingual method sounds vastly preferable, but I'd assume it would have to take a longer period of time to see benefits, since the dosage must be lower, so as to avoid a serious reaction.

And I wasn't exactly pronounced "cured." I had reached maximum benefit, said the doc, and would likely need to start again in a couple of years.

The skin-prick testing is a lot gentler than it used to be. There isn't even really a prick, more like having a ball-point pen pressed firmly against the skin. There was no pain, but, man, there was some impressive swelling and itching where I reacted to the allergens. I was advised to literally sit on my hands during the test.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:47 AM on January 26, 2010

I have always had severe seasonal and animal-dander-related allergies. Did the scratch test on my back, have had about 8 months of allergy shots and am a whole new person. I don't even have to take an over-the-counter pill every day. They're just gone. Highly recommended.

Also, a friend of family has enrolled her son in the Duke study. Child is around 4 (I think) and has a SEVERE peanut allegy. After about a year in the study, his exposure is up to the equivalent of one whole peanut and it doesn't affect him at all. Pretty cool.
posted by buzzkillington at 6:19 PM on January 26, 2010

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