The author of Is This Your Child?: Discovering and Treating Unrecognized Allergies, Dr. Rapp says traditional testing is not effective in identifying many allergens and symptoms, and "there are faster, easier, more effective ways" of combating them, rather than resorting to more traditional medicines or shots. She uses an alternative technique called provocation-neutralization, which involves taking an in-depth history of the patient's allergy symptoms, including emotional and behavioral problems, as well as physical problems like headaches, fatigue, and even handwriting changes in older children and adults. Allergens, including environmental, food, and chemical substances, are then identified by giving an injection superficially into the skin, one substance at a time, but at a stronger dilution than traditional scratch testing. "If a reaction occurs [such as a wheal, a mosquito-like bump, or symptom]," says Dr. Rapp, "the patient is then given a series of weaker and weaker injections of the same substance at 10-minute intervals until the wheal ceases to grow and the symptom, if there is one, disappears completely. This 'switch-off' dilution is called the neutralizing dose; it works as a kind of antidote."
The provocation-neutralization method is expensive and time-consuming, but safe and effective, Dr. Rapp concludes. However, the method remains controversial, and the AAAAI calls it both unproven and ineffective.
Many treatment options now exist for children suffering from allergies, and shots are one method recommended by experts. Parents should continue to monitor new alternatives that may soon be available for easing allergy symptoms in the sunny spring or any time of year.