One of the easiest remedies, avoidance, or prevention, involves removing or decreasing exposure to the cause of the symptoms from your life. For example, a particular food can be avoided, or a pet can be removed from the home or kept away from sleeping areas. If one is allergic to dust mites, a common allergen in this part of the country, we often recommend pillow and/or mattress covers that are impermeable to dust mite antigen penetration.
Some causes of symptoms, such as pollen, molds, and dust mites, cannot be totally eliminated. Exposure can be reduced, however, by environmental control measures prescribed by your allergist. Remember, you don't need 100% avoidance to improve – just enough to get you feeling better.
Although avoidance is always the primary recommendation, more treatment is usually advised. Medications frequently are used to decrease allergy symptoms and return patients to full health. Recent advances in medications for allergies, asthma and other allergic diseases have been phenomenal. Improvements in drugs have eliminated most of the side effects associated with them just a few years ago. Your specialist at The Allergy Clinic will be able to suggest the latest safe, and most effective, medications for treating your allergic illness. Medications are generally divided up into two categories--those to prevent your symptoms, and those to treat your symptoms. It is reasonable to infer that prevention medications must be used regularly to be most effective. Prescription medications can be very expensive; however, we will work with you and your insurance company to find the most effective therapeutic alternatives covered by your plan.
Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots)
Although medications may reduce or prevent symptoms, only a regimen of allergy shots can actually alter or fix a patient's allergic response. Allergy shots have been used by the medical profession since 1911. This time-tested therapy decreases a patient's sensitivity by introducing increasingly larger doses of the substances to which the patient is allergic. The treatment is a method for increasing the allergic patient's natural resistance to the things that are triggering the allergic reactions.
Think of it this way: The allergic response is an overreaction to a harmless substance. When the allergic patient comes across something to which they are sensitive, the allergic cascade begins, often leading to misery. The non-allergic person will breathe in the same thing and have no adverse response. The goal of allergy shots is to gain this tolerance to harmless substances which are mistaken for dangerous invaders.
See immunotherapy or RUSH immunotherapy for more information. Also see sublingual immunotherapy.
RUSH immunotherapy, or RUSH I.T. as it is also known, is a technique that accelerates the administration of allergen injections, shortening the time frame required to obtain relief from allergies.
Conventional immunotherapy consists of weekly or twice weekly allergen injections, administered over a period of six to eight months in increasing doses that gradually desensitize a person. During RUSH I.T., in a carefully monitored clinic environment with a three-day regimen of premedication, the patient receives six to eight months of dosage in one day and is able to move to maintenance dosage, which actually imparts the beneficial immune effect.
A History of Success
Since 1996, The Allergy Clinic and Houston Allergy and Asthma Clinic, have administered RUSH I.T. safely to more than 2,000 patients. While the procedure is associated with incidences of systemic reactions, most reactions are mild and easily treated.
A Day of RUSH I.T.
Before RUSH I.T. is administered, a patient will undergo allergy skin tests to determine allergic triggers. Only after the allergist has determined allergic triggers and evaluated his/her overall health is RUSH I.T. recommended.
For three days prior to a RUSH I.T. treatment, the patient follows a prescribed regimen of medications, including corticosteroids and antihistamines, which reduce the incidence of serious reactions.
On the day RUSH I.T. is administered, the patient arrives in the morning, and throughout the day, under close supervision by a physician, technicians and nurses, receives increasing doses of allergen injections over the course of six to eight hours. When the series of injections is completed, the patient is allowed to return home after one or two hours of in-the-clinic observation.
Over the next six to eight weeks, the frequency of the allergen injections is tapered off until the patient needs an allergen injection about once every three or four weeks.
The Advantages of Rush I.T.
For many individuals, RUSH I.T. is an excellent alternative to the longer, conventional method of administering allergy therapy because it:
- Offers quicker relief;
- Eliminates the need for weekly or twice-weekly allergy shots;
- Reduces office visits and insurance co-pays;
- Requires fewer shots;
- Allows patients to reach maintenance dosage months sooner than conventional immunotherapy;
- Accommodates schedules, especially for individuals who travel frequently;
- Hastens desensitization for patients who wish to avoid allergy medications during pregnancy; and
- Permits individuals who live distances from an allergy clinic to receive allergy shots on a less frequent basis, therefore significantly reducing the number of visits and commuting time.
Leading Treatment Facility
When it comes to innovation in allergy treatment, the highest level of patient care and a top-notch staff of board-certified allergists and professional nurses, The Allergy Clinic is one of the leading facilities in the United States. At The Allergy Clinic, patients are assured of a complete allergy evaluation by nationally recognized experts who listen and prescribe the most effective method of relief.
Sublingual Immunotherapy (Allergy Drops)
Sublingual immunotherapy, aka SLIT, is a method for treating allergies where drops of an allergen solution are placed under the tongue. SLIT can be as effective as traditional allergy shots, but without the needles. Popular in Europe for 30 years, SLIT is catching on in the US and is now available at The Allergy Clinic. After allergy skin testing, The Allergy Clinic creates custom drops for your specific allergy triggers. These drops are composed of the same FDA-approved allergen extracts that we use to make allergy shots. At home, on a daily basis, patients place a prescribed number of drops under their tongue. After two minutes, the drops are swallowed. Treatment involves a short build-up phase where drops increase in number and strength, followed by a maintenance phase that lasts for three to five years.
Advantages of SLIT are that it is safe enough to take at home, saving lots of travel time, gasoline, and clinic visits; the lack of needles make SLIT much easier for young children (and many adults) to tolerate; and SLIT is great for people who travel frequently.
Disadvantages of SLIT are limited to the fact that insurances companies consider it an "experimental treatment"; thus, they won't pay for it. Still, the cost is significantly less compared to a lifetime of allergy medications and numerous office co-pays, not to mention how much better you'll feel. We cannot perform Rush with SLIT, so the time to relief is longer with drops than with shots. Even though SLIT is not FDA approved, it is Safe, Effective, and Legal.
Are all allergy drops equal? No! Don't confuse SLIT as practiced at The Allergy Clinic with the low potency drops given by some "bootleg allergists" and ENTs. While low-dose SLIT has been used for years, its value has never been shown to be higher than placebo. In other words, a sugar pill has an equal chance to provide the results you get from the bootleggers.