There is no cure for food allergy, but at the annual meeting of American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) key developments with sublingual and oral immunotherapy were discussed. Basically, sublingual immunotherapy is a type of allergy treatment where an allergen solution is put under the tongue for the purpose of building immunity to the allergy. The treatment is nothing new – it has been around for over a hundred years.
The body learns to build immunity through exposure
The theory is that as more and gradual exposure to the allergen takes place, the body learns to build an immunity. There has been greater success with airborne allergens than food allergies, but this doesn’t mean SLIT doesn’t have a promising future as a food allergy therapy. Taken as drops or tablets under the tongue, it is administered three or more times a week for months or years.
Effective exposure could take years
But it can be a slow-going process. In a recent review of all SLIT studies by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, researchers revealed that 35% of the patients overall had significant reductions in medications and symptom scores. Another 38% had no improvement. Significant clinical benefit occurred after two years of treatment. For those who do respond the effect can be life-altering.
Supported by WHO
The practice is more popular in Europe than the US. SLIT comprises 40% of all allergy treatment in Europe. Its popularity rose in 1998 when the World Health Organization recommended it over subcutaneous (shot) immunotherapy which had a greater risk of anaphylactic shock and death. In the US, SLIT is still considered investigational and is not covered by insurance. The FDA has no protocol for its use.
To try SLIT, you need to find an allergist or immunologist familiar with the treatment. The AAAAI website has 6500 members and can help you find a specialist close to home.