Wiping Out Allergy
Learn of ways to deal with an allergy.
In 400BC, the Greek physician Hippocrates observed that drinking
milk caused hives in certain people and eating nuts sent some
Today, allergies continue to affect millions of people.
Consultant paediatrician and clinical immunologist and allergist
discusses ways of controlling or
Allergies are on the rise worldwide. How serious is the
situation, particularly among young children?
Allergies are indeed a serious issue worldwide. There is also a changing pattern in allergic diseases,
with eczema and food allergies rising faster than allergic
rhinitis and asthma.
Thus, it becomes an issue amongst young children because an
allergy tends to appear early during childhood in the forms of
eczema and a food allergy.
Is there an urgency to address allergy now?
Young children are our future generation. Hence, the
socio-economic status of countries will be affected if these
children, who have or are at risk of an allergy, are not managed
and treated adequately.
What are the common types of allergies seen in children of
one to five years old?
Eczema, food allergy, asthma and allergic rhinitis, with the
latter two conditions usually appearing later. Since allergies
have no cure, it is important for parents to protect their
children from allergies right from the start.
How do you prevent allergies in children?
Allergy prevention strategies are divided into three
categories: Primary, secondary and tertiary. Tertiary prevention
is simply treatment of the allergic diseases. When we have
symptoms or a flare-up of an allergic disease, we take
medication to prevent the condition from worsening. We also
avoid the allergens that caused it.
Secondary prevention aims at stopping one form of allergic
disease from progressing to another, eg from eczema to asthma,
and/or preventing someone who is known to be sensitized to an
allergen (eg house dust mites) from developing symptoms.
Sensitization to an allergen (as confirmed by a blood or skin
prick test) does not mean having an allergy at that stage, but
could mean a higher risk of developing an allergic disease in
Allergen-specific immunotherapy (ASIT) appears promising in
secondary prevention and also offers a potential “cure” for
certain allergic diseases.
Primary prevention tries to avoid the development of a
sensitization state to allergens. To do this, various methods
have been studied including the use of a partially-hydrolyzed
protein-base formula, probiotics, prebiotics and polyunsaturated
fatty acids, with varying success. Immunotherapy seems promising
in preventing or reducing the risk of an allergy.
What is immunotherapy?
In immunotherapy, an allergic person is given increasing
quantities of a product to which he is allergic to (called
allergen), gradually, to ease the allergic symptoms caused by
future exposure to that allergen. This produces tolerance
towards that allergen and long-term efficacy. It may also
prevent the progression of the allergic disease, resulting in a
better quality of life.
What types of allergic diseases can immunotherapy be applied
Allergic rhinitis (with or without allergic conjunctivitis)
and allergic asthma due to breathed-in allergens (eg pollens,
dust mites, cat and dog dander) and an insect sting allergy (eg
In addition, there is increasing evidence that patients with
atopic eczema related to dust mite allergy may benefit from
How is it done for a patient?
Standard methods of allergen-specific immunotherapy (ASIT)
include injections, drops (under the tongue) and oral tablets
(but not for all allergens, as yet), with an initial up dosing
phase of around three to four months, followed by a maintenance
phase of three to five years.
Does it “cure” the allergy?
It may potentially “cure” an allergy if ASIT patients are
monitored beyond the treatment period of three to five years.
Nevertheless, with a long-term efficacy of more than seven
years, ASIT certainly helps to improve a patient’s quality of
Is immunotherapy proven effective scientifically?
Thousands of scientific research publications have shown its
effectiveness and safety since its conception in 1911.
ASIT is now considered a standard treatment for patients who do
not respond to conventional anti-allergic medication. ASIT has
also been researched for patients with food allergy and
preliminary results look encouraging.