Allergy shots do pretty well with respiratory allergies, but the only way to avoid bad allergic reactions to food is to avoid the food that provokes the allergies. Doctors who treat allergies would love to be able to manage food allergies with shots, too. Researchers in Bern, Switzerland, looked at using shots for oral allergy syndrome, a pollen-related reaction to food that can include itchiness in the mouth and throat or sneezing.
What the researchers wanted to know: Can patients who are allergic to apples and hazelnuts be helped by injections with shots for people allergic to birch pollen?
What they did: The researchers randomly chose 35 patients from their allergy clinic who were allergic to birch pollen and also had an oral response to apple or hazelnut; 27 agreed to take part. Each person chewed and swallowed test doses of apple or hazelnut to see how much he or she could tolerate before symptoms appeared. Fifteen were getting birch pollen shots.
What they found: The shots did appear to help; 10 of 15 patients getting shots improved, compared with only 2 of 12 who weren't getting the shots.
What the study means to you: Allergy shots might help some people with their food allergies.
Caveats: In the tests, the patients knew they were chewing on the food they were allergic to. This sounds reasonable, but allergy tests are actually supposed to be done without the patients knowing whether they're getting the allergen or a placebo, to remove any psychological factors.
Find out more: About oral allergy syndrome, from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Read the article: Bucher, X. et al. "Effect of Tree Pollen Specific, Subcutaneous Immunotherapy on the Oral Allergy Syndrome to Apple and Hazelnut." Allergy. December 2004, Vol. 59, pp. 12721276.
Abstract online: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov