What are allergies?
Allergies are the immune system’s response to substances it thinks are a threat but which are usually harmless, such as pollen, house dust mites or cat fur.
For most people, these substances known as allergens do not cause any reaction. However, some people have immune systems that are ‘hyper-sensitive’ to certain substances. In these cases, contact with allergens can result in many unwanted symptoms which can negatively affect their day-to-day lives.
Hay fever is caused by an allergy to the microscopic pollens from trees or grasses. These pollens are airborne and are present throughout the spring/summer months.
House Dust Mite allergy is caused by sensitivity allergens from house dust mites which are present in all of our homes. They thrive in moist warm environments and are often found in soft furnishings, cuddly toys and our beds.
Allergies to pets with fur/hair are common, especially among people who have other allergies or asthma. Pet allergy causes symptoms similar to hay fever.
A food allergy is when the body's immune system reacts unusually to specific foods. Although allergic reactions are often mild, they can be very serious. Different foods like peanuts, milk, eggs, and fish can all cause allergic reactions with peanut allergy being one of the most severe.
What if the usual treatments don't work?
Many people who suffer from allergies find relief from over-the-counter treatments such as antihistamines and prescription steroids. These come in the form of tablets, nasal sprays and eye drops. If none of these options help, then patients may need another type of medication – specific immunotherapy.
This well-established treatment, also known as ‘desensitisation therapy’ or “allergy shots”, addresses the underlying cause of allergy and not just the symptoms. As a result it can provide long term relief and improve quality of life.
A 3 – 5 year treatment schedule is recommended for specific immunotherapy. The aim is to reduce allergy symptoms and the need for symptomatic medication
Subcutaneous immunotherapy is the most common form of specific immunotherapy and involves a course of injections that build up tolerance to particular allergens through small, controlled doses. Over time this desensitises the inappropriate immune response so the body doesn’t overreact and create the histamine release that causes allergy symptoms.
Sublingual immunotherapy is an alternative to injection immunotherapy. For this form of treatment, daily drops or tablets containing the specific allergen are placed under the tongue. The first dose of the sublingual immunotherapy is usually administered in a clinic under observation then the patient will be required to self-administer the treatment every day for a minimum of three consecutive years