If you've been living with allergies, you probably know the obvious stuff by now -- don't take in stray cats, don't hang around in dusty attics, don't inhale deeply in smoking lounges. But that might not be enough. There could be hidden allergy triggers and irritants all around you that you don't know about. "Hidden allergens and irritants are a huge problem for people with allergies," says Hugh H. Windom, MD, an associate clinical professor of immunology at the University of South Florida. "The...
Experts are checking to see if it can lower the chances of a serious reaction.
Here's how it works. In studies, people get a tiny amount of the food they're allergic to, while a doctor monitors them for any signs of trouble. Over time, they're given a little more of the food. So far this method seems to work best for peanut, milk, and egg allergies.
In one study, kids with egg allergies were given small doses of egg-white powder every day. After 10 months, more than half of the children could eat the equivalent of one egg with few or no symptoms. After almost 2 years of the treatment, 75% of the kids were practically symptom-free.
Keep in mind that these studies are done in carefully controlled situations. Don't try this at home -- you could have a life-threatening reaction.
Another similar treatment is called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). It's not been approved yet in the U.S. for food allergies, but research is underway.
With SLIT, a doctor puts a few drops containing the food under the person's tongue for a minute or two. The doctor watches closely to make sure there's no serious reaction. Over time, the dose is increased.
So far, researchers have tested SLIT for peanut, milk, peach, and kiwi allergies. The studies show that it works for many people while they're getting this treatment, but experts are still looking at whether it lasts after people stop getting the daily doses.
It's still early in the research stage, but the asthma medicineXolair (omalizumab) may make oral immunotherapy work better. Researchers are studying it to see if it may help by itself. Right now Xolair is only approved in the U.S. to treat allergic asthma.