Allergies to cats, dogs and horses are common and for those who own pets or have family or friends do, this can be a major issue. Symptoms such as nasal blockage, itchy, runny eyes and nose as well as sneezing may only be mild for many but for a significant majority they can be more problematic and lead to worsening of asthma.
Expert management of pet allergies, involves more than a diagnosis and instructions to avoid the animal. New prescription-only treatments can help and there is also the option to be desensitised to the animal. This can be highly effective and is very safe.
Desensitisation, or immunotherapy, which has the potential to actually cure allergies, involves the use of problem allergen, given in regular doses so that the immune system’s response to it changes.
One major benefit of the treatment is the long lasting effect, so that symptoms improve not just during the treatment but for many years after it has stopped.
In the past, this highly effective treatment was considered to be high risk. This was because they involved regular injections which could potentially cause severe reactions. However, new forms of immunotherapy are now available for cat, dog and horse allergies.
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.
Dr Fox speaks to BBC News about pet allergies.Watch the video