Does Hay Fever affect your Quality of Life?

Allergen immunotherapy may be the answer

If your hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is causing you misery, and you’re not seeing improvements in your symptoms despite regular treatment with antihistamine tablets and /or nasal steroid sprays as prescribed by your general practitioner, then you could benefit from allergen immunotherapy.

What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a well-established treatment for severe allergy where symptoms cannot be controlled. It is most commonly used to treat severe hay fever, but is also available for other allergic conditions, such as life-threatening (anaphylactic) wasp and bee venom allergy. Immunotherapy is a way of reprogramming your immune system to stop adversely reacting to an allergen. It has been shown to reduce severe symptoms and improve quality of life.

Hay fever can be treated very effectively with antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays, anti-allergy eye drops and other ‘add on’ medication available from your doctor. Some people have severe symptoms that these treatments do not control. Your GP should ask whether you have been taking the treatments regularly as prescribed and using the nasal spray correctly, before immunotherapy may be considered.

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Allergic Rhinitis and Hay Fever

On this page: What is allergic rhinitis? Symptoms of hay fever What causes hay fever Seasonal allergic rhinitis Perennial allergic...

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On this page: What is immunotherapy? Will I benefit from immunotherapy? Conditions for which immunotherapy is unhelpful What does immunotherapy...

Immunotherapy for hay fever can be given through an injection of allergen extract into the skin (usually in the upper arm), or it can be given orally (in the mouth, also known as sublingual) either in drops or tablet form placed under the tongue. Injections can only be carried out in specialist centres within hospitals by highly experienced staff, so that any side effects can be monitored and promptly treated. However, with oral immunotherapy only the first dose needs to be given in hospital and the rest of the treatment can be self-administered at home. There are short course injection regimes, which involve four to six injections starting before the hay fever season. These pre-seasonal treatments (given before hay fever season) and pre-coseasonal treatments (given before and continuing throughout hay fever season) are effective during the hay fever season.

For long-term benefits, immunotherapy is best given over three consecutive years. It is essential that the entire course is completed. Individual responses may vary, so the treatment will be tailored to each person. Other treatment options exist where as the immunotherapy treatment progresses, the dose of allergen is gradually increased, generally weekly over 12-16 weeks, followed by monthly injections until the allergic individual is able to tolerate exposure to the allergen without developing major symptoms. This is a continuous course of treatment for three years.

Severe Hay Fever

The condition affects approximately 20% of the UK population.Allergic rhinitis affects approximately 20% of the UK population and can be seasonal (‘hay fever’) or occur throughout the year.

The condition affects approximately 20% of the UK population.

  • Many people perceive allergic rhinitis as a relatively trivial condition, but it can have a serious impact on quality of life.
  • Allergic rhinitis occurs when the body’s immune response overreacts to allergen sources such as pollen, house dust mite, mould or animal dander (hair, saliva, skin flakes).
  • These are known as airborne allergens, as they are carried in the air we breathe and affect the nose, and sometimes the bronchial tubes in the lungs as well.
  • Rhinitis is inflammation of the nasal lining.
  • Symptoms can include sneezing, runny/blocked nose, itching and mucous dripping down the back of the throat. It can also affect the eyes and sinuses.
  • If you find that your symptoms are only affecting you during the summer months, it may be that you are reacting to pollens from trees, grasses or weeds. This is known as seasonal allergic rhinitis.
  • If you have symptoms all year round, this is known as perennial rhinitis, which can be caused by allergens such as house dust mite, mould or animal dander.

Symptoms vary from person to person. It could be that you experience a mild sniffle during the summer months or you may have more severe symptoms, such as an extremely runny nose, constant sneezing, sore inflamed, itching eyes and chronic nasal congestion. It is important to treat your symptoms, as those who suffer from allergic rhinitis are at an increased risk of developing asthma. In those who already have asthma, this will also need treatment from your GP.