Allergies are extremely common and are increasing in Australia, with studies showing they now affect around one in three people at some time in their lives.
Allergy is the result of an excessive reaction by the immune system upon exposure to specific substances in the environment that are generally harmless to most people. Some of these include house dust mites, moulds, animal hair, insects, tree pollens etc.
Those with an inherited or genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases are said to be atopic. When an atopic person is exposed to an allergen, their immune system is over-activated leading to increased histamine levels.
This can then cause symptoms in the:
- nose and/or eyes - hay fever (allergic rhinitis/conjunctivitis)
- skin - eczema, hives (urticaria)
- lungs - asthma
Effective prevention and treatment options are available for most allergies.
Treatment: Pharmacotherapy Vs Desensitisation
While pharmacotherapy medications such as anti-histamines, eye drops and intranasal corticosteroid nasal sprays are effective for fast symptom relief, they do not provide long-term relief and are not able to “cure” allergies.
Allergen immunotherapy (also known as desensitisation) on the other hand, is a long-term treatment, which changes the immune system’s response to allergens.
- It involves regular administration of allergen extracts over an extended period of time via daily drops under the tongue (sublingual).
- Allergen immunotherapy changes the way the immune system reacts to allergens, by “switching off allergy responses”. Over time, this results in you becoming immune to the allergens, so that you can tolerate these substances with fewer or no symptoms.
- Allergen immunotherapy is the closest thing we have for a "cure" for allergy. While it is not a “quick fix” form of treatment, it can quickly reduce the severity of symptoms (usually within 10 days from the onset of treatment) and the need for medication for many allergy sufferers.
- Those undertaking allergen immunotherapy need to be committed to at least 18 months – 2 years of treatment for it to continue to work effectively.
- Treatment is available to anyone over 5 years of age.
Allergen Immunotherapy is now available again at NEMQ via the sublingual form. Please contact reception to make an appointment to see one of the doctors to discuss treatment.
For more information please visit the ASCIA website. ( http://www.allergy.org.au/ )