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Keywords:

  • allergic rhinitis;
  • asthma;
  • children;
  • sublingual immunotherapy;
  • tree pollen allergy

Background:  Subcutaneous immunotherapy has been the principal approach of immunotherapy in the treatment of allergic diseases. Several clinical studies with birch, alder or hazel pollen extract conducted as subcutaneous immunotherapy have been published suggesting a well-tolerated and clinically effective treatment. Only a few clinical studies of sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) with these allergens have been published. This study investigated the clinical efficacy, safety and dose–response relationship of SLIT in children suffering from rhinoconjunctivitis with/without asthma.

Methods:  Eighty-eight children (5–15 years) with a history of tree pollen-induced allergic rhinoconjunctivitis with/without seasonal asthma for ≥2 years were included. Allergy to tree pollen was confirmed by positive skin-prick test, positive specific IgE and positive conjunctival provocation test. The extract used was a glycerinated mixture of Betula verrucosa, Corylus avellana and Alnus glutinosa 100 000 SQ-U/ml. Children were randomized into three groups receiving SLIT 5 days a week for up to 18 months; dose group 1: accumulated weekly dose of 24 000 SQ-U; dose group 2: accumulated weekly dose of 200 000 SQ-U; and placebo.

Results:  In the birch pollen season, dose group 2 showed a significant reduction of symptom (P = 0.01) and medication scores (P = 0.04) compared with placebo. Dose group 1 showed a significant reduction of symptom scores (P = 0.03). There were no statistical differences between dose groups 1 and 2. All children tolerated the treatment well.

Conclusion:  SLIT with tree pollen extract provided dose-dependent benefits in tree pollen-allergic children in terms of significantly reduced symptoms and medication use. The treatment was well tolerated.