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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Young children who have severe allergic reactions to stings from fire ants can be desensitized in a one-day "rush" protocol, according to a new report.
There's a risk of repeated stings in regions where imported fire ants are endemic, Dr. Michael S. Tankersley told Reuters Health. The one-day protocol, "which can safely reach a protective dose of immunotherapy in a short amount of time, would be a therapeutic option for any-age patient with imported fire ant allergy."
Tankersley, from Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas and colleagues describe three children 36 months or younger who completed a one-day rapid immunotherapy protocol with imported fire ant whole-body extract.
The procedure involves 10 injections of the extract given every 30 or 60 minutes, starting with a miniscule amount and gradually building up to a full dose so that the child becomes tolerant.
None of the three children experienced reactions during the treatment other than some mild redness at the injection sites, the team reports in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
After the rapid desensitization, the children went on to monthly maintenance immunotherapy.
The kids got stung by fire ants several times subsequently and generally did well, although one who didn't keep up with maintenance treatment had breathing difficulties after being stung.
Tankersley stressed the importance of having people with reactions to fire ant stings see an allergist, "as imported fire ant allergy can be fatal."
Immunotherapy provides 95-98 percent protection, he pointed out. Treatment "is recommended for 3-5 years with monthly maintenance injections provided in the office of an allergist."
"We have just completed an initial study using this same protocol in adult patients 18 years and older," Tankersley added.
SOURCE: Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, September 2008.