Nose flowing, eyes burning, no antidotes? Not quite, because allergies can also be treated thoroughly. However, so-called hyposensitization does not always work – and consumes a lot of time.
Allergies are more than unpleasant for most patients. Depending on the severity, it can permanently limit the quality of life and even become really dangerous. An estimated 25 million people in Germany are allergic.
Those who are affected take drops, nasal sprays, swallow medications – but they only ease the discomfort. Evil at its root can only be suppressed by hyposensitization. "Such immunotherapy is the only treatment that causes the allergy causally," says Dr. Philipp Babilas, a dermatologist from Regensburg.
How is an allergy determined?
Whether it's pollen, mold, house dust mites, or insect venom – hyposensitization helps regardless of the trigger. First, the physician is recruited for the allergist, who complains and tortures him and in what situations he appears. This is followed by a skin allergy test. The doctor will try to find out exactly what the patient is responding to. "Special immunotherapy is especially recommended if the patient has a difficult time escaping from an allergy trigger in daily life," explains Prof. Dr. Jörg Kleine-Tebbe, Berlin allergist.
What are the benefits of hyposensitization?
Successful treatment has many benefits: "Hypersensitivity can alleviate symptoms, reduce drug consumption and, if used early, reduce the risk of disease progression and lead to allergic bronchial asthma," explains Sonja Lämmel of the German Association for Allergy and Asthma (DAAB).
But there are also counterarguments: Immunotherapy for the patient is time consuming. And there is no guarantee of success. "Of the ten patients, more than half to two-thirds benefit, one more and the other less," says Kleine-Tebbe.
How is treatment performed?
Hypersensitivity lasts for at least three years. The doctor injects a weekly so-called allergen extract into the adipose tissue on the patient's upper arm. Week by week, the allergic dose increases. After the injection, the patient must remain under the supervision of a physician for the first half hour – if any side effects occur that require immediate medical attention. Thus, a solution containing allergens in the patient may activate the hive or asthma. Allergic shock is also possible. "These are very rare cases," Babilas says.
Mild allergic reactions such as local itching or swelling at the injection site are not uncommon after injection. If the maximum dose of allergen extract was reached and the patient tolerated it without side effects, it will still be injected, now once a month. "If therapy really starts, the patient's symptoms are significantly reduced and he needs less medication," explains Kleine-Tebbe, who is also a spokeswoman for the German Society for Allergology and Clinical Immunology (DGAKI).
What are the variants here?
In addition to this classic variant, there is short-term hyposensitization for hay fever sufferers: only a few syringes were placed before the appropriate pollen season. "This process is repeated at least three times within three years," Babilas explains.
Another form of hyposensitization is sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). "The allergen is not given by spraying, but in drops or in tablet form," says Lämmel. In this procedure, the patient holds the allergen preparation under the tongue for several minutes and then swallows it. "Tablet-shaped immunotherapy is currently available only for shrub and lawn allergy, tree, grass and pollen allergy drops, and dust mite allergy."
For people suffering from insect allergies, the so-called ultra-urgent hyposensitization can also help. In the first step, the patient is given several injections daily during a three-day hospital stay. Thereafter, the injection is performed every month for a period of three to five years.
And with a syringe, it's not enough: In order for therapy to go as smoothly as possible, allergy sufferers should avoid sports and other physical exertions on the day of the injection or taking drops or tablets. Opting for a day off in a sauna or hot tub is optimal, explains Babilas.
When does therapy make sense?
Generally speaking, "An allergic person should consider hyposensitization with their doctor if the allergy to the medication is difficult to overcome and the affected person suffers severely from the allergy and its consequences," Babilas says. The patient should also be over five years old.
If the patient is suffering from severe cardiovascular disease or poorly controlled asthma, hyposensitization is usually not the first choice. The same applies to immune deficiency, serious autoimmune diseases or pregnancy. "Ultimately, the decision is up to the doctor and the patient," says Kleine-Tebbe.
Important note: The information does not replace professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized physicians. The contents of equilibreplus.com cannot and should not be used to make independent diagnoses or to initiate treatment.