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New Hope for Pollen, Milk Allergies

Shorter Course of Allergy Shots, Skin Patch for Milk Allergies Among New Approaches

Skin Patch for Milk Allergies

Eight of 13 children with dairy allergies who wore a skin patch for three months could drink three times as much milk as before without showing signs of an allergic reaction, reports Christophe Dupont, MD, PhD, of Hopital Saint Vincent de Paul in Paris.

None of the seven children given a placebo patch showed that much increased tolerance, he says.

The experimental skin patch, which is coated with cow’s milk powder, was placed on the children’s backs every other day. It’s called Viaskin and is made by DBV Technologies, which funded the research.

One child could drink nearly three cups of milk after three months of treatment, Dupont says. Others built enough immunity to prevent allergic reactions if they ate foods that contained trace amounts of milk proteins.

Dupont says that a major advantage of the patch over allergy shots is that you can remove it if someone suffers an allergic reaction.

Wesley Burks, MD, chief of the division of pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke University Medical Center, tells WebMD that the approach is promising, but that more studies looking at its safety are needed. Burks was not involved with the study.

Oral Immunotherapy for Children With Milk Allergies

Other researchers are following 15 children who successfully completed a course of oral immunotherapy in which they built up tolerance by swallowing tiny but escalating doses of milk protein in the form of powder mixed with water.

Four months after stopping treatment, five of the 15 continue to drink at least two 8-ounce glasses of milk a day, says Satya Narisety, MD, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

The other children are tolerating an ounce of milk a day on average, he says.

“Even after stopping therapy, they’re still able to have milk in their diet,” he tells WebMD.

The catch: Many still have minor signs of allergic reaction, such as itching on the lip or tongue or mild stomach aches, about once a week or every other week.

“The reactions are largely unpredictable, although they are going down in frequency,” Narisety says.

Under-the-Tongue Approach

Other researchers are studying sublingual immunotherapy, or SLIT, which involves placing drops or tablets that contain small amounts of an allergen under the tongue. Several studies presented at the meeting suggest the approach is safe and may alleviate symptoms in people with pollen and dust mite allergies.

But not all the news is good: Still other doctors found that SLIT may not work that well for people who are allergic to more than one type of pollen -- ragweed and grass, for example.

“When we gave drops that contain [grass allergen] alone, outcomes were significantly improved. But patients given [grass] mixed with nine other extracts didn’t do significantly better than those given placebo,” says Harold Nelson, MD, of National Jewish Health in Denver.

The big advantage of drops over shots is that you can apply them yourself, at home, Nelson tells WebMD. But “there’s probably a probably a limited role for single-extract [drops] in the U.S., as most Americans are allergic to multiple allergens,” he says.

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