SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - If you have allergies, you’re not alone. Researchers say more than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergies each year.
There are a number of over-the-counter ways to treat both environmental and food allergies, but doctors say sometimes the allergies are simply too severe for those medications.
When it comes to food, allergies can be a lot more dangerous and even deadly, but it’s a common ailment, predominately among children. In fact, researchers estimate one in 13 children have food allergies. That’s roughly one or two in every classroom.
“They can be deadly and they’re hard to avoid,” said Dr. Hugh Windom, with Windom Allergy. "My last cashew patient, his last reaction was eating calamari.”
There’s cashew in calamari?
“It was in the dip," Dr. Windom answered.
That’s all it took to put this patient in the ER, which is why Dr. Windom said his office is ahead of the curve in using a new way to treat food allergies with oral immunotherapy.
“All we do is start very, very low, like one, one thousandth of a peanut, and work our way up to one to 100, one to 10, up to a full peanut," Dr. Windom explained. "They get up to about three to eight peanuts they’ll eat everyday.”
It’s a fairly new treatment that Dr. Windom said is only offered by about 200 clinicians in the entire country, but it’s simple and works with a variety of different food allergies.
“It’s just the food," he said. "So for instance, with peanut. We start with peanut flour, we put it in a solution. We measure how much, we put it in a syringe, one mL for instance, you put in an apple juice and drink it.”
Each doctor visit, the dosage increases. Dr. Windom said it usually takes 12 to 14 visits to build up the tolerance for the food. After that, the patient will continue to eat a small amount of the food at home daily.
But for those with a severe environmental allergy, Dr. Eva Berkes uses a different form of immunotherapy.
“Sublingual immunotherapy is our alternative to traditional shots," Dr. Berkes explained. "Instead of the shots, we offer, essentially, a drop that goes underneath the tongue, which is absorbed through the veins underneath the tongue, into the bloodstream.”
Like oral immunotherapy, Dr. Berkes said the sublingual treatment is a natural way to desensitize a patient by giving them very, very small amounts of the pollen, or other environmental factors causing the allergy.
“We want to break it in gently to your immune system, so we don’t cause any adverse reactions," Dr. Berkes said. "We use very, very tiny amounts and then we gradually increase them over time.”
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For more on ways to treat severe allergies, click here.