At last, spring is here! Most of us having been waiting all winter long to see the first signs of warmer weather. However, there are some people who dread the new spring season — those with allergic asthma brought on by grass pollen.
Allergic asthma starts early — most people who have it first suffered from grass pollen allergies when they were children. So, wouldn’t it make sense that treating one condition could, in turn, help to treat the other? Researchers decided to test this link and see what they could find.
U.K. scientists took 35 children with seasonal allergic asthma (who experienced no other types of asthma), and split them into two groups. One group received the test treatment and the other received a placebo. The randomized, double-blind study was performed over two pollen seasons in order to assess the long-term benefits of ‘immunotherapy’ on children affected by grass-allergy- induced asthma.
What is immunotherapy? Perhaps you’ve heard of allergy shots? Well, they are one in the same. Both are injections that contain controlled amounts of the substance you’re allergic to. The idea is to build up your tolerance to allergens, so that your immune system doesn’t go haywire every time it encounters them. That’s basically what an allergy is — your immune system overreacting to substances it considers to be invaders, such as pollen.
When your system tries to fight off these invaders, it produces the symptoms we are all familiar with, such as a runny nose, watery eyes, that itchy feeling — and don’t forget asthma.
For those of you who’ve never had an asthma attack, it mainly consists of shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and wheezing. Left untreated, a severe asthma attack can be lethal.
Back to the study. The researchers administered a very specific form of immunotherapy (containing a certain type of grass pollen) to the one group of children, ages three to 16, over eight visits. The dosage was increased at each visit. After the injection, they monitored the subjects for any adverse reactions.
By the second pollen season, the children who had received the immunotherapy, compared to those on placebo, experienced significantly reduced asthma symptoms and did not use as much medication to control their condition.
Of course, the allergy-shot treatments also brought relief for other allergy symptoms such as red, itchy eyes and hives. There were no serious side effects recorded during the study, which means it’s a safe option for most people suffering from this type of asthma.
The findings mean that there is some promise for a cure for allergic asthma in children. At the very least, the symptoms could be greatly alleviated. It appears that more studies need to be done to find out whether or not adults suffering from asthma brought on by a grass-pollen allergy can experience the same relief.
Until then, you can check with your doctor on the pros and cons of receiving allergy shots. It’s important to note that people with food allergies have not been shown to safely benefit from immunotherapy.