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Easing the Sneezing: Could Oral Drops Replace Allergy Shots?

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Individuals interested in participating in future ragweed studies should call (608) 263-6049.
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Box of tissuesMADISON - Sneezing, a constant runny nose and congestion that makes it hard to sleep - all are signs that it's the middle of ragweed season. But a new method of ragweed-allergy treatment and prevention, being tested at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, may allow allergy sufferers to actually enjoy the months of August and September.

"It wouldn't be overly dramatic to say that some ragweed-allergy sufferers go through an entire box of tissues a day," said Dr. Mark Moss, associate professor of medicine. He has seen some of the worst ragweed allergy cases.

Moss is testing a pump-spray treatment that patients take at home. Depending on the findings, he believes the spray could eventually offer an alternative treatment to weekly allergy shots.

Under the protocol, 426 ragweed-allergic adults at 31 U.S. research centers, including the UW, are participating in the placebo-controlled study. Neither the participants nor the researchers know who is getting the ragweed preparation or the placebo.

In June, just before ragweed season, the participants began taking the preparation by spraying it under the tongue once a day. Researchers will track the participants by looking at their symptoms and medication use during the three-month test period.

In the traditional allergy treatment called "desensitization" - it dates back nearly a century - patients receive weekly shots of allergens for five months or more followed by three to five years of monthly maintenance shots.

"The once-a-week clinic visits for allergy shots are a big deterrent for people with allergies," said Moss. "If we find that the self-administered oral allergy treatment is as good as or better than allergy shots, it could make prevention and treatment of allergies much more convenient for people with busy schedules."

Moss says with the allergy-shot method, there is a risk of anaphylaxis, a rapidly developing and very serious allergic reaction. As a result, patients must be monitored in the clinic for a prescribed amount of time following the shot.

"There is early evidence that the daily oral allergy treatment is safer than allergy shots. And we definitely know that it's more convenient for ragweed allergy sufferers," he said.

Researchers will analyze the findings this fall and winter and results from all 31 research centers are expected by spring, 2009.
Individuals interested in participating in future ragweed studies may contact the UW Allergy and Asthma Research Clinic at (608) 263-6049.

Date Published: 09/08/2008

News tag(s):  allergy

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