As many Central Texas allergy sufferers know, allergic respiratory problems such as hay fever and asthma can negatively impact their quality of life. Problems with seasonal hay fever, such as “cedar fever” during the winter and “oak allergy” during the spring, as well as difficulties with allergic asthma, can affect not only the allergy patient, but their entire family in very uncomfortable ways. Having to miss school or work, avoiding outdoor activities, difficulties with athletics and exercise, or just generally feeling miserable can ruin a day for many allergy patients. It is estimated that as many as 4 in 10 Americans battle sneezing, runny noses, watery eyes and difficulty breathing due to airborne allergies. Over the counter medications might provide temporary relief, but what are your options if they don’t do the trick?
Allergy injections are the most widely used immunotherapy treatment in the United States and can provide long-lasting relief for allergic symptoms due to pollens from plants or molds, dust, or animal danders. Injections are administered in a physician’s office and are covered by most insurance plans. Patients usually begin with a low dose/low concentration of allergy extract and build up to their maintenance dose over a period of months. Patients then continue with injections on a weekly or bimonthly schedule. But who wants to get all of those injections and make all those weekly visits to the doctor’s office? Central Texas allergy sufferers now have two treatment options that offer not only highly effective results, but for the first time, offer comfort and convenience as well. Oral allergy drops and oral allergy tablets (sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT) are prescription products that work like allergy injections, but are taken under the tongue and are safe for at-home use. Although there are some limitations with these new products, they certainly have the potential to completely revolutionize the management of allergies and have the potential to make allergy injections a thing of the past.
Three new oral sublingual allergy tablet products are now on the market. The good news is that they have been shown to be effective and are generally covered by insurance. The bad news is that these tablets are only effective as a treatment for a limited number of grass and ragweed allergens. Oralair (Stallergenes) contains antigens for 5 regional grasses, but does not contain Bermuda grass, which is the primary grass allergen here in Texas. Grastek (Merck) only contains antigen for Timothy grass, which again, is not a primary grass allergen here in Texas. Ragwitek (Merck) contains only Short Ragweed antigen, which is only one of the many weed allergens found in Texas. So, if your allergy testing shows you are primarily allergic to certain grasses and/or Short Ragweed, these oral sublingual allergy tablet products might offer an excellent treatment option.
In Central Texas allergy drops are an excellent choice if you suffer with allergic symptoms from a variety of pollen, mold, animal dander or dust allergens. Like allergy injections, allergy drop prescriptions are prepared based on a patient’s specific allergy testing results and an individualized treatment plan based on that testing. Drops are administered daily under the tongue, and a minimum three-year treatment program can have long-lasting benefits. Allergy drops are safe and effective, can be taken at home, and have been shown to be equivalent to allergy injections if dosed appropriately (using high-dose protocols). The greatest downside to allergy drops at this time is that they are not yet covered by insurance plans or Medicare. While the antigens used in allergy drops are the same ones used in allergy injections (and have been approved by the FDA for decades) their specific use in oral form for allergy drops has not yet been given final approval by the FDA. Which means insurance won’t cover them yet. But that process is underway and in the meantime, many patients are able to use health savings accounts or flexible spending accounts to help cover the cost.