Allergy FAQ Part III: Frequently Asked Questions on Allergy
Posted Apr 12 2012 10:30am
Having talked about the definition of allergy, the various types of allergies, and allergy testing - let's move on to a more controversial subject that of allergy treatments. Much like allergy testing, what kinds of treatments there are for allergies - food or environmental - depends entirely on who you are talking to or what you are reading. I think it is appropriate to take a peek at history here. In doing research at the University of Buffalo Medical Library back in 2003 and 2004, I read about a Dr. Alfred Schofield, a physician in England in 1908, who successfully treated a boy suffering from an allergy to egg. (Schofield, Alfred T. A Case of Egg Poisoning. London: Lancet, 1908. p. 176). Dr. Keston, Dr. Walters and Dr. Hopkins confirmed this egg desensitization in 1935. (Keston B., Walters I & H, Gardner, J. Oral Desensitization to Common Foods. J Allergy 6:431, 1935.) The story of Dr. Schofield was fascinating as far as I can remember, but let's see what that means to the average consumer. For more than 100 years, physicians around the world have been engaged in desensitizing patients to common foods.
Mainstream allergy physicians offer treatments to environmental allergens and things like deadly bee stings. This treatment is done by a series of allergy shots given in the office after skin testing and the treatment required can take many, many years. I know about this treatment protocol as I was given allergy shots by Dr. Winter in Williamsport, PA from the time I was 18 months old until I was 18 years old. I would consider it very effective in terms of outcome. But mainstream allergists are not the only game in town these days nor have they been for a long, long time.
Outside of mainstream allergists, you can find physicians and other health care practitioners who engage in a variety of other treatments for allergies - both food and environmental. How effective these treatments are probably vary by the type of treatment in question, the expertise of the practitioner, and on some level perhaps the compliance of the patient. When my daughter was 20 months old and was in the boat of being a "failure to thrive" child despite my expertise in food, the gluten-free diet (she was not failure to thrive in other words because of celiac disease), and food allergies - I was referred to one of these physicians by the Medical Director of one of the largest medical practices in the state of New York.
Why? Why would a Medical Director for one of the largest medical practices in the State of New York send me to an out-of-network physician? Well, in his words at the time - this was the only doctor who could help my child who was in need of medical help. I was shocked! I remember specifically asking him for a referral to Johns Hopkins, The Cleveland Clinic, Boston and other reputable institutions. He said that they would not be able to help my child. So, reluctantly, I went to see one of these practitioners and in short order with the help of one of these treatments (the kind described in the early medical literature), my daughter was able to eat foods that previously caused her to lose weight and have eczema. Go figure. My point is that there are many points of view in medicine and that not all patients are the same. Likewise, not all doctors are the same nor are all treatments the same. You have to find what works for you. The most important thing is to find a licensed medical provider who has the expertise you require and to work with that practitioner to find solutions to your health issues. Let me know if you have any questions!