New Hope for Athletes with Allergies
Written by Neil D. Smith, MS., PA-C, AE-C
Allergies to food and environmental allergens are becoming increasingly more common in our society. In fact, in the last twenty years, there has been an epidemic increase in allergies and asthma including a 400% increase in food allergies and a 300% increase in asthma. (1)
For athletes, allergies are particularly troublesome as they often result in fatigue, lost or poor training sessions and suboptimal race results. In fact, allergies cause and worsen many conditions that can be detrimental to an athlete’s health and performance. These conditions include:
-allergic rhinitis, eczema, fibromyalgia, frequent colds, irritable bowel syndrome
-asthma, chronic fatigue, nasal polyps, otitis media, anaphylaxis
Of particular concern to athletes, t here have been increasingly more reports of patients with anaphylaxis that occurs only if the patient exercises or exerts themselves within two to four hours of ingestion of food. This is referred to as food dependent, exercise-induced anaphylaxis. These reactions are seen most often in adolescents and young adults. However, they can occur in middle aged patients as well. Most patients react to one or two specific foods. Common causative foods include wheat, celery, and seafood. The food can be ingested in the absence of exercise without development of symptoms. Some patients react after eating any food prior to exercise. (2)
The good news is that in response to the increase in allergies, allergy treatment options are also advancing. One treatment gaining popularity in the United States is sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops administered under the tongue). This method has been utilized in Europe for over sixty years and has proven to be a very safe and effective means of treating food and respiratory allergies. (3)
Similar to injection therapy commonly used by allergists, the allergy drops contain pollens and other allergens that the patient is allergic to. In contrast to injection therapy, allergy drops are painlessly self-administered by the patient away from the clinic. Thus, only a few office visits are required each year. The concentration of the allergens in the drops is gradually increased over the course of several months until a maintenance concentration is reached. Most people notice a significant reduction in their symptoms within one to three months. Over a three to five year treatment course, the body becomes desensitized to the allergens and the immune system no longer recognizes them as a threat.
The end result for athletes is more good days, improved race results and ultimately, better overall health. (3)
Allergy Solutions is a clinic in Boulder, Colorado specializing in allergy treatment using sublingual immunotherapy. Learn more about allergy drops.
(2) Wesley Burks, MD et al. Clinical Manifestations of Food Allergy. UpToDate.com
(3) Information courtesy of Allergy Associates of LaCrosse, WI /AllergyChoices.com