Hayfever effects 10-15% of children and around 25% of adults in the UK and is caused by an allergy to pollen, typically tree or grass. Symptoms such as nasal blockage, itchy, runny eyes and nose as well as sneezy may only be mild for many but for a significant majority, they have a very real impact on day to day life. Hayfever is also commonly associated with asthma. Expert management of hayfever, including new prescription only treatments, can have a dramatic improvement on symptoms, making the spring and summer much more manageable.
Some of the most exciting developments in the field of Allergology (the study of allergy) are those in the field of desensitisation or immunotherapy, which has the potential to actually cure allergies by diverting the immune system’s response to a specific allergen (such as pollen).
We are able to offer the most up to date desensitisation treatments. These can provide the one major benefit of long lasting effect, so that symptoms improve not just during the treatment but for many years after it has stopped.
Previously this highly effective treatment was considered to be high risk because they involved regular injections which could potentially cause severe reactions. However, new forms of immunotherapy are now available for the grass and tree pollen allergies that most commonly cause hayfever. Treatments for house dust mite, cat, dog and horse are also available.
Sublingual immunotherapy involves using a spray, tablet or drops of the problem allergen under the tongue, rather than using injections. This form of treatment is much safer (with over a billion doses given globally) and thus can be given at home. As well as having been shown to reduce the symptoms of rhinitis, there is now scientific evidence to suggest that desensitisation can reduce the likelihood of developing new allergies and asthma.
Our team has a particular expertise in sublingual immunotherapy, which is only available in specialist allergy centres, and are centrally involved in the largest UK desensitisation programme on the NHS, together with active involvement in research in this area.
Pollen immunotherapy is suitable for children and adults who:
- Get insufficient relief from conventional medical treatments
- Wish to reduce their reliance on conventional medication, such as steroids
- Wish to reduce the risk of developing further allergies or asthma
Further details about this treatment are available on request.
Dr Fox speaks to the BBC on the subject of hayfever, asthma and desensitisation.