The fall season is a challenging time of year for people with allergies. The coronavirus global pandemic has forced many of us to spend more time indoors over the last several months, and now the cooler weather of autumn adds to the time inside and potentially increases exposure to indoor allergens.
The most common indoor allergen is dust mites. When air heating systems are turned on for the first time in the fall, our homes can be flooded with dust mites that have accumulated in the air ducts during the spring and summer. Whether it is nasal congestion, itchy eyes, or runny nose, many find that simply trying to avoid their allergy trigger or self-treat with over-the-counter allergy medicines is not enough to offer relief.
Allergy immunotherapy (AIT) is a great choice for millions of Americans who want to treat the underlying cause of their allergies. AIT is the only treatment option available that changes the immune system so that you no longer react to those things to which you are allergic. It makes it possible to be symptom free and not depend on medications such as antihistamines and nasal corticosteroid sprays.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved four sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) tablets for grass and ragweed pollen and house dust mite allergies. These tablets are placed under the tongue once a day and dissolve quickly. Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT), better known as allergy shots, is also available and considered the current mainstay of treatment in the United States. The schedule for allergy shots can vary depending on the doctor’s schedule. It is important to know that the use of allergy shots in the U.S. has been “grandfathered” in by the FDA and have not been required to satisfy the same standard of efficacy and safety demonstrated by the available allergy tablets.
As consumers, we have a great opportunity to take charge of our healthcare by partnering with our providers to make treatment decisions that are a good fit for our lifestyles. Allergy & Asthma Network, in collaboration with the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, created the first-ever Shared Decision Making tool for patients who want to start AIT.
When considering whether to treat allergies with AIT, several decisions must be made. For example, allergy tablets are ideal for those who want the convenience of a treatment they can take at home (after getting the initial dose in their doctor’s office), who cannot commit to frequent office visits, and want to treat their one worst allergy (either grass pollen, ragweed pollen or dust mite). On the other hand, allergy shots are ideal for those who prefer close observation by an allergist in the case of a severe allergic reaction, who want to treat one or more allergies, and who do not fear needles.
The safety profile of allergy tablets is considered better than that for allergy shots as there have not been any deaths contributed to by allergy tablets. Allergy tablets and shots are both considered safe if there’s monitoring for symptoms of a severe allergic reaction and epinephrine – the first line treatment for severe reactions – is readily available. Both can cause local side effects: for allergy tablets, there’s the possibility of itching and swelling in the mouth; for allergy shots, there’s possible red, itchy hives, and swelling at the site of injection.
The power to treat your allergies is in your hands. Let this fall season be the reason that you talk to your allergy specialist about AIT today.