Even though the cold, dry air of winter has given allergy suffers a slight reprieve from warm, pollen filled spring breezes, allergy season is never far enough away. While those who suffer from severe seasonal allergies struggle to find ways to deal with the constant sniffling and sneezing, researchers continue to make progress that promises to help allergy sufferers finally enjoy the springtime. Now a new under-the-tongue method used to treat allergies may help millions of people suffering from asthma or hay fever finally find some relief.
A new review of existing research has found that the use of drops and pills designed to desensitize the immune system to potential allergens could bring needed relief to allergy patients, according to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association this March.
As part of the review, researchers examined 63 studies on sublingual immunotherapy.
Time to Breathe Easy
Commonly used in Asia and Europe, under-the-tongue allergy therapy essentially allows patients to receive traditional allergy shots in the form of drops or pills that dissolve in the mouth. As with traditional allergy shots, the principle behind this type of therapy is to expose the immune system to the essence of substances that cause an individual to suffer an allergy attack, such as ragweed for example, until their body builds up a resistance.
Currently, no under-the-tongue allergy products have been approved for us in the U.S., but some doctors have been known to provide patients the therapy anyway by taking the extracts used in allergy shots and administering them to patients orally.
In this recent review, researchers found compelling evidence that suggests this type of immunotherapy helped to significantly ease the symptoms of asthma caused by allergies. In eight of the 13 studies that examined the direct correlation between under-the-tongue allergy therapy and asthma found that patients experienced a 40 percent improvement in symptoms when compared to patients that received either a standard allergy shot or a placebo.
However, researchers found less compelling evidence when examining how under-the-tongue allergy therapy improved symptoms of individuals with nasal allergies. Only nine of 36 studies found that a drop in symptoms such as itchy eyes, runny nose, and congestion that exceeded 40 percent. Despite the uneven success rate of this type of therapy showed in some trials, the majority of studies did find at least some benefit.
Coming to America
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently evaluating a number of under-the-tongue products, which could pave the way for this type of treatment to become more commonly used in the States.
Researchers stress the importance of the FDA’s work, as attempting to apply European studies to the U.S. does not promise to provide accurate results due to a difference in strength of the allergen extracts used. Without knowing how this type of immunotherapy would work on U.S. patients, researchers say there’s no way to know what accounts as the most effective dosages.
Even if taking a pill seems more appealing to patients that receiving a shot, researchers caution against using under-the-tongue immunotherapy offered by their physicians. Since allergy shots in the U.S. use a mix of allergen extracts, there’s no guarantee that the pills or drops offered by a physician would have the same rate of success as therapy methods currently used overseas.