Allergy Drops Not Shots for Tots

Grass allergy treatment offers safe alternative to injections for children

November 27, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Bringing a child to the doctor to get allergy shots can be a traumatic experience for both the child and the caretaker. A new treatment might offer an alternative to the dreaded needles.

A new study shows under the tongue drops are safe and effective for treating children with grass allergies.

The researchers found the SLIT (sublingual immunotherapy) treatment was well tolerated among the study participants and didn’t cause any safety issues for the children.

"See your pediatrician for the best allergy treatment."

Ulrich Wahn, MD, from the Department for Pediatric Pneumology and Immunology, Charité Medical University, Berlin, led the study to find out how safe and effective a new treatment method was for children’s grass allergy symptoms. The method researchers wanted to study is called allergen-specific sublingual immunotherapy, or SLIT. With SLIT, the medication is given in a liquid form under the tongue instead of in an injection under the skin.

The researchers recruited 207 children who were allergic to grass. Their allergic reactions included stuffy or runny noses and itchy, red eyes. Some also had asthmatic reactions to grass. The children were between the ages of 4 and 12. They were recruited and examined in 34 clinics in Germany and Poland.

All children were assessed before the study to measure their allergic reactions during the grass pollen season. They were then divided into two groups. The first group received the SLIT treatment researchers wanted to study. The second group was given a placebo, or fake, treatment. Neither the patients nor their doctors knew which type of treatment they were receiving.

The treatment group received a high-dose grass pollen SLIT daily before and during one grass pollen season. The medication was a grass pollen preparation in water that contained six different species of grass pollen in equal amounts. Drops were kept under the tongue for three minutes and swallowed afterward.

During the study period researchers measured how many allergic reactions the children were having, what kind and how severe they were. They also recorded how much allergy medication the children took for their symptoms (in addition to the treatment), what kind of medication they used and how frequently they needed to take it.

The researchers found that the reduction of allergy symptoms among the children using SLIT was about twice that seen in the placebo group. The symptoms they looked at included itchy, watery or red eyes, sneezing, coughing, blocked sinuses and wheezing.

About 51 percent of the children using SLIT saw at least a 40 percent decrease in their symptoms, compared to only 33 percent of the placebo children. The researchers also found that children using SLIT had more well days than those taking the placebo. Children using SLIT experienced an average of 9.3 days compared to 5.1 days in the children taking the placebo.

The researchers reported their study “clearly found efficacy and safety of a high-dose SLIT preparation in children allergic to grass pollen aged 4 to 12 years.”

“The aqueous formulation of the extract used in this trial offered a further advantage both in terms of administration to younger children and for the possibility of adjusting doses according to patient needs and sensitivity, thus increasing treatment efficacy and tolerability,” the researchers concluded.

The study shows how effective this form of therapy for allergies can be, according to John Oppenheimer, MD, a pulmonary and allergy specialist and dailyRx News Contributing Expert.

“The use of the sublingual route is attractive, it is obviously less painful than the present injected form and it can be delivered at home,” Dr. Oppenheimer told dailyRx News.

“We in the US await the potential FDA approval of this therapy as well as trials with multiple allergens,” he said.

The study was published online August 31 in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Several of the authors have received funding or support from one or more of the following companies: Allergopharma, ALK- Abell_o, HAL, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bitop AG, NETSTAP and Forschungs GmbH.