If you enjoy going to the doctor’s office to get allergy shots for months (or years) on end, then more power to you. For the other 99.99 percent of allergy sufferers, relief may be headed your way in the form of a pill developed to replace shots for those who are allergic to pollen.
Oralair, from the French company Stallergenes, has been approved for people ages 10 to 65 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. While there are no treatment modalities that can cure allergy permanently, the pill signals a new direction in immunotherapy – treatment in which sufferers are exposed to small amounts of the allergen to reduce sensitivity and symptoms when allergy season strikes.
Until now, aside from unapproved homeopathic and homemade treatments, immunotherapy has come in the form of shots. The new pill – effective against Sweet Vernal, Orchard, Perennial Rye, Timothy and Kentucky Blue Grass pollens – reduced the need for allergy medication by 16 percent to 30 percent in studies, according to the FDA.
And while that percentage may sound less than stellar, given the rise in seasonal hay fever, every bit may prove helpful. In the United States, pollen season has lengthened by up to 27 days since 1995, and experts say climate change may be to blame. Tests show that the more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the more plants generally grow and the more pollen they produce. If carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase, allergic conditions are expected to worsen.
The new pill will be available in May and although it will be a take-home pill, the first dose must be taken under medical supervision to monitor for severe allergic reactions. Like shots, it will take several months to start working. So although it may not help those with early summer symptoms this year, the future is looking a bit brighter for shot-shunning sufferers in allergy seasons to come.
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