Asthma is a disease of the lungs that causes your airways to narrow, swell and produce extra mucus. This can trigger wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. While asthma can’t be cured, it can be managed, and recent research shows it can also be prevented by undergoing allergy immunotherapy.
What Is Allergy Immunotherapy?
Unlike taking medications, which manage the symptoms of allergies, allergy immunotherapy gets at the root cause: your immune system. It works by introducing small amounts of allergen extracts, like pollen found at Bush’s Pasture Park, into the body so that the immune system can build up a tolerance.
Allergy immunotherapy is available in two forms: subcutaneous (SCIT) and sublingual (SLIT).
SCIT, more commonly referred to as allergy shots, entails getting regular injections within an allergy clinic. These injections contain allergen extracts. SCIT is administered in two phases:
- During the buildup phase, you’ll receive injections about twice a week for three to six months, and each injection contains a slightly larger quantity of the allergen extracts.
- During the maintenance phase, you’ll receive injections once or twice a month for three to five years. It’s common to see improvement in symptoms about a year into the maintenance phase, with no symptoms after the phase is over.
SLIT, also known as allergy drops, is administered in either drop or tablet form, which is placed under the tongue until dissolved. Besides the first dose, the drops or tablets can be administered at home.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your allergist may instruct you to take the drops three to seven days per week for three to five years.
The FDA has approved SLIT to treat allergies to dust mites, ragweed and certain grasses. Drops for dust mites are taken year-round, while those for ragweed and grass are taken only in the months leading up to and during allergy season.
About the Study
One recently-published systematic review and meta-analysis that was conducted in Europe found that children who undergo allergy immunotherapy have a lower chance of developing asthma later in life.
The results were more noticeable for SCIT and SLIT drops, but SLIT tablets also demonstrated protective effects.
According to lead author Mariana Farraia, M.S., and Ph.D candidate at the Institute of Public Health and Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto in Portugal, “This study supports a possible preventive effect of allergy immunotherapy in asthma prevention… These findings may also help improve clinical guidelines on the management of allergic diseases.”
For more information on pediatric allergies or to schedule an appointment, call Willamette ENT & Facial Plastic Surgery today.
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