Consumer Health News
High time for allergy sufferers: start treatments in the autumn
By Andreas Heimann Sep 18, 2006, 6:44 GMT
Wiesbaden, Germany The start of spring is an unhappy time for allergy sufferers. No sooner do the days get longer than blossoms start to come out. Before you know it, the cycle of sneezing and breathing problems begins anew.
Unfortunately, as soon as the blossoms fade, so do the memories - at least until the next season. But according to German experts, sufferers need to seek out therapy in the autumn, when their system gets a break and there is no pollen to interrupt immunotherapy treatments.
Almost anything can cause allergies, from nickel to insect venom. But blossoms are one of the most frequent offenders. The allergy is actually a down to an 'error' in the immune system that treats something benign as a threat. Antibodies build up and histamines are released when the offending substance appears, which leads to the allergic reaction. Antihistamines are the best treatment.
'We estimate there are about 24 million people allergic to pollen in Germany alone,' says Professor Ludger Klimek of the Allergy Centre in the German town of Wiesbaden. Most of them don't want to take medicine for extended periods. Others won't get the therapy they need. Only 10 per cent are treated properly, estimated the German Society of Allergists and Clinical Immunologists in Munich.
Part of the problem is that the most common treatments scare off patients says Anja Schwalfenberg of the German Allergy and Asthma Association (DAAB). Desensitization procedures often mean multiple doctor's visits and subcutaneous shots ones that go well under the skin.
In the past, allergy sufferers would get steadily larger anti- allergy doses every week over the course of many months. After that, an optimal dose was injected every four to six weeks. Treatment lasted three years. 'But that isn't done much any more,' says Klimek, noting that therapy has been able to conform more to patients' needs.
Plus, there are now alternatives. Rush immunotherapy has shorter dosing periods without long pauses in between. 'There are normally three treatment days, mostly in hospital,' explains Klimek. Cluster immunotherapy uses less frequent injections but with increased doses. However, these new therapies also require about three years to become fully effective.
People whose allergies aren't so bad are usually advised to try a short immunotherapy treatment, which only requires four to seven shots. These shots have to start before pollen season and are repeated every three years. 'But this option isn't as effective as the others,' says Klimek.
Sublingual immunotherapy treatment also lasts for an extended period. In this treatment, drops are applied under the tongue. Experts say it's much more comfortable, but early studies show that the success rate is not as high as with injection treatments.
But the new treatments do provide patients even those who have tried other therapies in the past a chance to live with fewer problems.
'You can always try a second therapy,' says Schwalfenberg, adding that a second attempt usually has better results than the first.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur