Sublingual immune therapy could cure milk allergies in children

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Placing a few drops of milk protein under the tongue of children could be an easy cure for milk allergies. The findings are the result of a small study from Johns Hopkins Children's Center and Duke University. Cow milk allergies can be difficult to manage and can even be confused with lactose intolerance.

According to experts at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, "Milk allergy is the most common type of food allergy. Three million U.S. children have food allergies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

The cure for milk allergies studied involved giving children increasingly larger amounts of milk and foods that trigger allergy under the tongue. The treatment is known as SLIT (sublingual immune therapy), and differs from oral immunotherapy because milk protein rather than being consumed is placed under the tongue.

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The authors of the study say more research is needed to compare sublingual to oral immune therapy, but both methods could be effective. Either can trigger severe allergy, and should be done under medical supervision, but sublingual immune therapy is less risky because small amounts of the allergen are given. The study compared both types of therapy for treating milk allergies in children age 6 to 17.

"We are very excited to see that both approaches can achieve significant improvement in children with milk allergies, but we continue to see slightly better tolerance in children on oral immunotherapy," says lead investigator Robert Wood, M.D., director of Allergy & Immunology at Hopkins Children's. "Nonetheless, SLIT emerges as a new, if slightly less powerful, weapon in our arsenal."

The small study involved 30 children who were given drops of milk protein under the tongue for several weeks, and then either sublingual milk protein (10 children), or ingested in the form of milk powder (20 children). All experience some sort of allergic reaction during the study. After three months they were given a “milk challenge”.

The group who received milk protein drops under the tongue improved significantly and was able to drink seven times more milk with minor allergy symptoms than at baseline. All but one of the children given milk protein drops under the tongue was also able to do the same. During the study, milk allergy symptoms were mild for all of the children, and respiratory symptoms that can signal a severe allergy attack occurred infrequently.

Johns Hopkins Children's Hospital

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