Itching and watery eyes, perhaps so swollen that it’s actually scary. Ragged and wheezy breathing. Sneezes so constant the shoulders and back begin to ache. For those with environmental allergies, this is their reality for most of the year, from spring until the first frost. When you’re the parent of a child who suffers from allergies, you feel their discomfort acutely and wish there was some way you could help relieve their symptoms.
It is impossible for parents to control absolutely everything a child with rhinoconjunctivitis – severe allergic reactions – is exposed to. There are many medications to treat allergic conditions from injections and pills to creams and nasal sprays, but it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what the best treatment options are for your child.
Alzein Pediatric Associates, an award-winning pediatric group serving southwest Chicagoland, offers a safe, effective and custom-formulated alternative to allergy injections that is proven to increase tolerance and build lasting immunity to environmental allergens.
Pediatrician Dr. Hassan Alzein says, “For many children with allergies, avoidance is the first line of treatment and can often be good enough – not having a dog, keeping the air conditioning on, and perhaps taking an antihistamine when warranted. However, in certain cases where allergic reactions are severe, avoidance is not enough or really even possible, so medication is necessary.” Unfortunately, sometimes medications are of minimal help and parents worry about giving large and long-term doses of drugs to small children. Parents may also be reluctant to take children for weekly subcutaneous allergen-specific immunotherapy injections, or SCIT.
Fortunately for these young sufferers, Dr. Alzein has pioneered an emerging, no-injection therapy in Chicagoland to treat severe cases of rhinoconjunctivitis called Sublingual Immunotherapy, or SLIT.
In 2013, Dr. Alzein attended a World Allergy Organization continuing education symposium about an emerging treatment for allergic rhinoconjunctivitis – and saw hope for his young patients who suffer from severe allergic conditions. SLIT was proving to be every bit as effective as the SCIT injections, but with a much lower risk of side effects and significantly easier treatment administration. SLIT, distributed under the name AllerVision, is taken orally, via drops placed under the tongue, at home.
“I realized that AllerVision could make an enormous difference in my patients’ lives,” said Dr. Alzein. “SLIT is very underutilized in the United States, but it’s been used in the U.K. and around the world for decades.” He arranged for the developers of AllerVision to visit his offices in Oak Lawn and Evergreen Park. “The developers trained all our medical staff on the testing, on the serum administration and answered all of our questions about the safety and effectiveness of these treatments. All of us – myself, Dr. Riff and Physician Assistants Ms. Molloy, Ms. Cermak and Ms. Denny – wanted to be sure we had complete confidence in the therapy before our practice began recommending it.”
When a patient first comes in with severe rhinoconjunctivitis, Alzein medical professionals will administer a blood test to determine to which irritants a child reacts. They will perform a grid test, applying a variety of allergens through painless tines to the patient’s back and waiting for a “wheal” – an itchy, red and raised bump surrounded by a “flare”, which would indicate a sensitivity to a particular substance. The larger the wheal and flare, the greater sensitivity is to that allergen. All test results are sent to AllerVision, who formulates serums specific to the individual child’s needs.
The AllerVision serums are tasteless drops, placed under the child’s tongue, that contain trace amounts of the patient’s unique main irritants. Through this small, daily exposure, the serums enable the child to build up a tolerance and eventual life-long immunity to each allergen. There is an initial escalation phase over the first 5 days to reach optimal tolerance levels. Patients will continue to take daily maintenance drops, usually 5 drops of each serum, for three to five years to develop life-changing immunity.
After the initial testing, prescription and parent training, the serum ships directly to the child’s home, eliminating frequent doctor office visits and saving hundreds of hours and dollars for parents each year. SLIT is an eligible expense for Health Savings Accounts and FlexSpending. AllerVision is formulated with FDA-approved antigens and is endorsed by the World Health Organization.
Once a year, Alzein medical staff will repeat the grid test with the patient. Dr. Alzein notes, “that the test results may not always reflect a declining resistant to an allergen; real life results are more indicative of the therapy’s efficacy.” These tests will be repeated throughout the child’s treatment and will continue until the patient’s immune systems responds to the allergens correctly, when the patient is no longer at risk of having an allergic reaction.
Dr. Alzein notes after this treatment, the patient’s new immunity to the allergens is likely to last their entire life; they won’t need to repeat the therapy. “Most patients that use SLIT will see improvements within two months and will experience complete remission of their allergies throughout the course of their life. Because we can safely prescribe SLIT to very young patients, we can save them from a lifetime of suffering.” Alzein patient families attest to the success of SLIT.
“It has made a huge difference,” says a patient’s mother. “My son is able to be outside, to roll in the grass with the dog, to play baseball and football. We used to go through multiple bottles of eye drops, using them two to three times a day, which he just hated, every summer. Last summer, we used just one bottle all summer long. He used to take daily allergy pills, but the last two summers, he had just very minor flare ups and we rarely needed medication for them.”
AllerVision and SLIT is only effective for environmental allergies such as dust mites, molds and mildews, animal dander and pollens; it is not prescribed for food allergies.
For children who suffer from environmental allergies, SLIT will help increase tolerance to allergens and build lasting, life-long immunity. For now, Alzein Pediatric Associates is the only Chicagoland pediatric practice prescribing SLIT. The medical professionals at Alzein have now prescribed the treatment to dozens of patients who are finding allergy relief and immunity success with this innovative treatment.
More information about SLIT and Alzein Pediatric Associates can be found at www.alzeinpeds.com or by calling 708-424-7600.