An alternative to allergy shots?
With spring comes pollen and, for many of us, allergies. That means sneezing, runny nose and itchy, irritated eyes.
As a kid and teenager, I suffered through 10 years of weekly allergy shots. They ultimately proved pretty effective in controlling my allergies. But, ouch! And did I mention it took a decade?
I recently heard about tablets that might do the same thing as shots. How do these pills work? And are they effective?
Dr. Prescott prescribes
You’re referring to immunotherapy tablets, known as sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT. People suffering from allergies place the tablets under their tongue, where they dissolve in about 10 seconds. It’s a daily dose, with the course of treatment typically stretching several years.
The tablets were first approved by the FDA five years ago, and they work the same way as allergy shots, gradually altering your immune system to suppress allergic reaction. So, they essentially cure allergies.
This fundamentally differs from over-the-counter nasal steroids (like Flonase or Nasacort) or antihistamines (such as Zyrtec, Claritin or Benadryl), which can be effective at treating symptoms but don’t fundamentally attack the root problem.
The tablets are generally safe, and they’ve been found effective against three allergens: grass pollens, ragweed and dust mites. Unlike allergy shots, though, each pill only works against one allergen. So, if you’re allergic to grass and ragweed, you’d need to take a pair of tablets every day (which is probably not a big deal).
However, if you have other allergies — like to Oklahoma’s notorious cedars or other trees — shots are still the way to go. Right now, there’s no tablet available in the U.S. for tree pollens. But with tablets for various tree allergies now approved in other countries, we may see those in coming years.
Prescott, a physician and medical researcher, is president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. Cohen is a marathoner and OMRF’s senior vice president and general counsel.