Eliminating Allergies Without Injections
How is this allergy season going for you so far?
Does your nose get so congested and stuffy that it’s hard to breathe?
Do your eyes feel like they’re itching or watering all the time?
Is daytime drowsiness or fatigue slowing you down?
Does your asthma act up simply from going outside?
Are your allergies poorly controlled with your current medications and inhalers?
Does the thought of doing allergy injections sound painful or like a hassle?
We have a solution for you…
Allergies and asthma are the 5th leading cause of chronic disease in America. Nearly four million work and school days are missed each year due to seasonal ragweed allergies alone! Allergy concerns are on the rise in Sonoma County, with many people having their first allergic event within 3 years of living here. Northern California is a uniquely difficult allergy region because of our temperatures, microclimates, highway design, and air quality issues. The temperatures bring us our amazing landscapes, but also contribute to an unusually high pollen count and poor air quality.
A significant concern with allergies is preventing the progression to asthma or developing multiple additional allergies. There is an “atopic march” in which 16-40% patients with an allergic runny nose are likely to develop asthma later on in life. People with airborne allergies such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, are the most at risk to develop additional allergies as they get older.
An “allergen” is a typically benign protein that the body recognizes as a threat and then mounts an immune response to ‘wash away’ the allergen, resulting in our symptom experience of a runny nose, watery eyes, etc. Sublingual Immunotherapy (also referred to as SLIT) is a very effective treatment that “desensitizes” and eliminates the body’s response to an allergen. This form of immunotherapy is administered by placing drops underneath the tongue. The region under the tongue is especially responsive to this therapy as it allows the immune system to have exposure to the immunotherapy concentration of allergens without undesired effects. The treatment is non-invasive, does not involve needles, and eliminates the need for weekly travel to an allergy clinic receive injections. In 2009, the World Health Organization stated that SLIT represents a good alternative to more standard immunotherapy delivered by injections, commonly referred to as “allergy shots”. SLIT is widely used in Europe – as of 2011 about 40% of European allergists were using SLIT as a treatment.
Before starting SLIT, blood tests are performed to assess how allergic a person is to their suspected allergens: pollen, molds, grasses, pets, foods, etc.. The concentration of the body’s allergic responsivity determines the treatment dose of the allergen. The goal is to expose the body to the concentration of an allergen that is just below the concentration in which the immune system mounts an allergic response, thereby normalizing the presence of the allergen and desensitizing the body’s response to the allergen altogether. As treatment progresses, the concentration and dosage of the solution is adjusted over time as the immune system responds favorably. Improvement is usually seen within 2 to 4 months for pollens and 6 months to a year for dust mite allergy. The treatment can be started at any time of the year and “pre-season” treatments are extremely helpful for seasonal allergens such as grasses, weeds, and trees. The allergy response can be completely resolved and eliminated within 1-3 years.
There is strong evidence that supports an excellent safety profile of sublingual immunotherapy for people of all ages. This is a much more pleasant allergy treatment alternative for kids, their parents, and grownups alike. SLIT is very well tolerated, with the most common side effects being oral itching, swelling, nausea, vomiting, and stomach ache. These side effects, which are not common, are either mild and go away by themselves or are easily managed by a temporary reduction in dose of therapy.
In addition to using immunotherapy, it is important to decrease exposure to allergic triggers as much as possible. It is hard to avoid pollen when outdoors, especially when the weather is nice. Daily rinses using a neti pot to clear the nasal passages can also help quite a bit. One factor often overlooked when treating allergies is the benefit of avoiding foods that a person is allergic to. For example, if a person is allergic to mold, they should avoid foods that are moldy (e.g., some cheeses, mushrooms, vinegar, sour cream, dried fruit), which are more common than you might expect. Would you believe that even chocolate and fruit juices are moldy? Yeast in the gut also contributes to the level of mold in the body, so treating an overgrowth can be of great benefit.
To learn more about options for treating allergies using SLIT, allergen testing, yeast overgrowth, and taking a holistic look at your health, we welcome you to schedule an appointment with Richard Chen, MD. He is currently offering patients a 15 minute introductory visit or phone call at no charge.