A Cure for Allergies
By Philippa Barr, Expat Living Body & Mind Review
I have no doubt that most allergy sufferers will read this title with some scepticism. Sure, you can mask the symptoms or avoid the cause, but you can’t cure allergic reactions.
Dr Pang Yoke Teen of the Centre for Ear, Nose, Throat, Allergy and Snoring, at HealthSense Specialists, believes otherwise.
“Allergic reactions generally manifest themselves as symptoms in the eyes, nose, skin or lungs – conjunctivitis, rhinitis, asthma, eczema, and the more serious anaphylactic reactions, they are all related. They are inhibiting, annoying or worse,” he explains.
“The truth is that the best course of action is avoidance: change your environment to keep away from whatever it is that affects you. Unfortunately, that is not always practical.
“Next best, try medical alternatives such as steroids or anti-histamines, which mask the symptoms but don’t address the cause. In some cases, patients find enough relief with symptomatic treatment.
“Then consider options for a cure. Allergy shots have been used regularly in the United States for many years, but have not become commonplace in Europe and Asia for two reasons: early issues with anaphylactic shock reactions during testing, and individual commitment. Not enough patients were willing to commit to a weekly visit to the doctor’s office for two years – which is what the full course of treatment required.”
The new treatment that Dr Pang recommends is Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT). SLIT has tested well in extremely well in Europe in the cure of allergy to dust mite and pollens – two of the most endemic allergens, affecting up to 30 percent of people of all races. Further local testing has been done on dust mite, which is particularly problematic in the tropics; final results on long term effectiveness will be released next year. Early indications are that the cure rate for confirmed dust mite-allergic patients is as high as 80%.
Like other immunity-driven medication, SLIT works by training the body to react differently to an allergen by exposing it to the allergen in minute quantities. Droplets of allergen-specific fluid are placed under the tongue, and held there for two minutes. This part of the mouth has many blood vessels, so the droplets are absorbed readily into the bloodstream, in much the same way that they would enter the body via an immunisation. The difference is that the treatment is pain-free and administered at home.
Improvement is usually evident after three months, but full benefit is derived after the drops are used for twelve-to-eighteen months. Different allergens need to be treated separately, as the therapy depends on developing immunity to a particular one.
SLIT is suitable for any person capable of holding the drops under their tongue for the required time, and willing to commit to long-term treatment (excluding pregnant women and those with a compromised immunity system).