Hay Fever :: Allergy shots offer safe relief for hay fever

Allergy shots are effective and safe for reducing symptoms of hay fever, according to a new review.

The injection series caused no deaths and few serious adverse reactions in 51 controlled studies.

Dr. Moises Calderon, of Royal Brompton Hospital in London, and colleagues evaluated the results from randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis due to tree, grass or weed pollens. The studies involved 2,871 participants.

The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is an immune reaction to allergens such as dust, pollen, pet dander or mold. It usually results in sneezing, watery eyes and an itchy, drippy nose when sufferers come into contact with their allergy triggers.

The incidence of hay fever has been on the rise worldwide over the last two decades, especially in developed countries. Some allergy patients can control their symptoms by avoiding their allergy triggers or by taking antihistamines or other drugs, including nasal steroids. Other patients need stronger measures.

In allergy shot regimens, also known as immunotherapy, tiny amounts of an allergen, such as pollen, are injected under the skin, with the dosages gradually increased over the course of the treatment. Injections can contain one or more allergens.

After the initial treatment, the patient usually undergoes a series of maintenance injections over the next several years. This essentially desensitizes the patient to the allergen.

But deaths or serious adverse reactions to immunotherapy have been reported, causing its use to be limited in some parts of the world.

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