WESLEY CHAPEL — Stephanie Turner had tried everything.
Over-the-counter remedies failed to relieve her 8-year-old son's severe allergies. The smallest sip of milk caused Bryson's throat to close and sent him into sneezing fits.
When her chiropractor mentioned an alternative laser therapy treatment, the Wesley Chapel stay-at-home mom jumped at the chance.
"He isn't being pricked, and he isn't taking drugs," said Turner, 41. "I don't see anything bad that can happen from it."
Maybe not, but the medical community isn't sold.
Richard F. Lockey, professor of medicine, pediatrics and public health at the University of South Florida, who also directs the university's allergy and immunology center, said allergies are far too complex to be treated with alternative treatments like the one used on Bryson.
"There's no sign that it helps," Lockey said. "Allergies are easily treatable with the medicines we have today. I don't know of any scientific evidence that it's helpful."
Insurance companies don't cover the treatments, which are about $85 each. And the procedure isn't billed as a cure.
Still, Bryson's chiropractor, Dr. Micah T. Richeson at Cypress Creek Chiropractic, is advertising treatments and says there are only two clinics in the Tampa Bay area that use the machine. Two weeks ago, the company that markets the product sent out a news release with this headline: "Revolutionary laser technology drastically improves allergy systems in 80 percent of patients.''
The procedure involves using a machine called a BAX-3000. It's a box that looks like a computer modem and, according to Richard Gant, chief executive officer of Virtual Medical Solutions in Wellington, it cost about $40,000. Gant sold Richeson the equipment.
Richeson, 33, worked at a chiropractic clinic in Gainesville with his father and brothers until October, when he opened his own clinic at 2304 Crestover Lane in Wesley Chapel.
Some of his patients had allergies, and Richeson came across the BAX-3000, which went on the market in 2007, while researching ways to help them.
Richeson concedes he too was skeptical until a chiropractor in Oldsmar convinced him it worked. The BAX-3000 uses a laser to stimulate a patient's nervous system, he said, and that gives the body energy to change its response to an allergy.
"It's positive reconditioning,'' he said, "like positive affirmations, that retrain the body."
The treatment is based on biofeedback, which is also referred to as mind and body therapy. The idea is that the body can be trained to reprogram itself to change its reaction to things like allergies.
The hope, according to a Web site run by AllergiCare Relief Centers, which market and trademark the BAX-3000, is that the body "associates the positive stimulus of the laser with the exposure of the allergen, and no longer perceives the allergen as harmful."
The treatments take about one minute each.
Jeannie Poe, 53, of Dunedin said she has had 50 treatments at the clinic in Oldsmar. Before she began treatment, Poe said, she was getting allergy shots twice a week to treat mold, grass and pollen allergies.
Since she started using the BAX-3000 last year, Poe said, she no longer needs shots.
"I went in for a couple treatments and saw immediate relief," she said. "The quality of my life has improved 100 percent. I can walk outside without getting short of breath."
When asked about the BAX-3000, Angel Waldron, spokeswoman for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America in Washington, D.C., said this:
"Although the BAX-3000 may prove helpful to some patients, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America is unable to recommend it at this time, as it is an unproven method of allergy treatment."
Even the Web site for the BAX-3000 offers this disclaimer:
"The BAX-3000 is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition."
Richeson has treated only six patients since he began doing the procedure last week. Four more patients have signed up to use the machine, he said.
Bryson Turner had three treatments, but his mother said it is too early to say whether they will help.
"I've heard great things about it," Turner said. "I hope Bryson is one of those cases where this will be life-changing."
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at (813) 909-4609 or firstname.lastname@example.org.