Health & Medical Allergies & Asthma

New Hope for Pollen, Milk Allergies

New Hope for Pollen, Milk Allergies March 18, 2009 (Washington, D.C.) -- Whether you’re allergic to pollen or food, help is on the horizon.

Doctors report early success with a new approach that shortens the course of allergy shots for people allergic to ragweed and grass. Other researchers found that an experimental skin patch may help children who have milk allergies.

Other dairy-allergic children are benefiting from a counterintuitive therapy in which patients swallow tiny amounts of the very food they are allergic to. It’s the same approach that is being used successfully in children with peanut allergies.

Other researchers report that placing drops or tablets under the tongue may someday end the need for pesky shots in some people allergic to pollen and dust mites.

All the treatments are variations of what doctors call immunotherapy -- the idea that giving small amounts of an allergen to people with pollen or food allergies helps to build up the immune system so they can tolerate much higher amounts before having an allergic reaction.

The new treatments were discussed at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

A Shorter Course of Allergy Shots

Four preseasonal weekly allergy shots may reduce sneezing, wheezing, and other symptoms in people who are allergic to ragweed, says Harold B. Kaiser, MD, an allergist at the University of Minnesota.

“The idea is to build up the same immune protection you get from conventional treatment, which consists of eight, 10, even 20 shots both before and throughout allergy season,” he tells WebMD.

The new study involved 381 people with ragweed pollen allergies. About two-thirds received four shots of Pollinex Quattro every week over a four-week period leading up to ragweed season. The rest got placebo injections on the same schedule.

Participants who took Pollinex Quattro reported significantly fewer symptoms and taking significantly less allergy medication during the three peak weeks of ragweed season than those given placebo, Kaiser says.

There were no serious side effects, but a few patients withdrew from the study because of redness and swelling near the injection site.

More study is needed, but the hope is that fewer shots will work “as good or better than conventional therapy, with fewer doctor visits and better compliance,” Kaiser says.

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