Ah, allergies. Sneezing, itchy eyes, a running nose, headaches, trouble sleeping… Let’s face it — allergies are not fun.
If you suffer from allergies, the tricky thing is that there can be triggers everywhere. There are environmental and ingested antigens all around you that can cause an allergic reaction if you happen to have an overly sensitive immune system.
When you come into contact with an allergen — be it dust, pollen, or a dog — your body will release histamine, which causes all the sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, and hives, among other symptoms. Seasonal allergies, while they can make you feel miserable, are not life-threatening. Other types of allergies include respiratory, food and drug.
Traditionally, Western medicine has controlled allergies with over-the-counter drugs that are meant to stop your histamines from overacting when you come into contact with an allergen. Unfortunately, many of these allergy medications can cause side effects.
For chronic allergy sufferers, allergy shots are often prescribed. Anyone who has ever had to endure allergy shots will tell you that they are not pleasant. The shots are meant to help prevent symptoms by exposing people, over time, to small amounts of the pollen or other allergen to which they are allergic, essentially desensitizing the immune system to the allergen.
Here’s some good news for those who hate needles: a new therapy has been developed that allows hay fever sufferers to get allergy shots in the form of a tablet or drops.
The therapy is known as sublingual immunotherapy. Basically, the treatment relies on the same principles as traditional allergy shots, but is delivered by tablets or drops that dissolve under the tongue.
In a recent study, Italian researchers combined the results of 19 clinical trials conducted since 1995 on the effectiveness of immunotherapy tablets and drops against hay fever caused by grass pollen. Across the studies, which included a total of 2,971 adults and children with grass-pollen allergies, immunotherapy reduced symptoms by about 30% on average. It also allowed patients to reduce their use of antihistamines and other medications.
Even though the effectiveness stands at slightly less than that of allergy shots, it’s not hard to see that being able to administer immunotherapy at home — without a trip to the doctor’s — is a definite benefit. In addition, the sublingual therapy tends to have fewer side effects than shots, according to the results of this study.