For 5-year-old Liam Stump, life on a farm is supposed to be fun. Playing in the hay, getting dirty and helping with the harvest — activities any energetic child would love. However, Liam has severe allergies and suffers from itchy, swollen eyes. His breathing can sound more like a squeaky chair inside his chest than a healthy set of lungs.
“Whenever his dad goes out to work in the fields, Liam has to stay behind while his little brother gets to spend time with Dad,” said Liam’s mother, Kayle. “He would love to be able to help his dad and enjoy our farm, but his allergies just won’t let him. It separates our household, and I want my husband to be able to take both our kids out to have fun on the farm.”
Kayle has attempted to control Liam’s allergies using prescription and over-the-counter medications but has had little success. Liam began taking allergy shots when he was 3, but the shots were hard on both Liam and Kayle. Now, a new allergy treatment offered at University of Missouri Health Care is helping Liam literally brush off his allergies.
“It can be easy to forget to take your allergy drops or shots, and if you’re a parent of a young child with allergies, these may not always be the easiest options,” said Christine Franzese, M.D., an MU Health Care allergist. “That’s why we offer patients a new allergy toothpaste that is mixed with their specific allergens, such as pollen or mold. The customized toothpaste not only cleans your teeth, but also helps your immune system develop a resistance to allergens. Brushing with the toothpaste can lessen the severity of allergies over time and eventually even eliminate them.”
Traditional allergy drops require a patient to keep the drops under his or her tongue for two minutes before swallowing. For some, especially young children, this may not be feasible. People already should brush their teeth for two minutes at a time, so the allergy toothpaste allows patients to undergo the immunotherapy without disrupting their daily routine, Franzese said.
The allergy toothpaste was developed by Franzese’s colleague, William Reisacher, M.D., an ear, nose and throat doctor at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. With allergy drops, the medication is absorbed through cells under the tongue. Research has shown there is a higher concentration of these cells along the gums, and the allergy toothpaste is as effective as allergy drops.
Liam has been using the toothpaste for two months and already is experiencing relief from his symptoms. The toothpaste, like allergy drops or shots, takes three to five years before a patient’s immune system has responded to the point where medication is no longer necessary.
“Though he’s only been using the toothpaste a short while, I’m thrilled that he’s already experiencing relief,” Kayle said. “I’m really optimistic and hopeful that one of these days he won’t have to take any allergy medications, and he’ll be able to join his dad and brother out on the farm.”
The toothpaste is available in berry or mint flavors. A three-month supply costs patients approximately $200 and is not covered by insurance. For more information about allergy treatments, please visit www.MUHealth.org/allergy or call (573) 817-3000.