Spring and summer attract with sunshine and warm temperatures - but for allergy sufferers, this time is often a torment. Because when birch, alder, hazel & co let their pollen fly, the hay fever season begins - then the nose runs and the eyes burn. Around 30 percent of Germans suffer from hay fever, but only a few seek out a doctor because of their complaints. Hyposensitization (desensitization) in most people with allergies can relieve the symptoms of hay fever or even disappear completely.
Benefits of hyposensitization
Many allergic people suffering from hay fever fight their ailments during medication during the hay fever season. These so-called antihistamines block the action of histamine and thereby prevent the occurrence of an allergic reaction. However, the antihistamines only start with the symptoms of the allergy but not with their cause.
In a hyposensitization, which is also referred to as specific immunotherapy or allergy vaccine, on the other hand, the causes of the allergy are combated. An allergic reaction comes about because the immune system mistakenly reacts to actually harmless substances. The antibodies produced during the defense reaction by the immune system cause the typical symptoms.
In hyposensitization, the allergic person is repeatedly brought into contact with the substances to which he is allergic. Most of the substances are injected under the skin, but now they can also be taken orally via drops or tablets. Initially, the dose administered is small, but over time it continues to increase until the maintenance dose is reached. Due to the constant contact, the body gets used to the substance and the immune system no longer defends it, or at least not so much.
If a patient is allergic to several substances, individual mixtures of different allergens can be prepared by the doctor. Incidentally, the costs of hyposensitization are usually covered by the health insurance company.
Hyposensitization: not only possible with hay fever
Hyposensitization can treat hay fever as well as allergies caused by dust mites, certain molds, insect venoms and pet dander. In the case of an allergy to animal hair, however, better contact with the animals should be avoided. In addition, the symptoms of allergic asthma can be alleviated by hyposensitization.
However, hyposensitization is not suitable for everyone. In severe asthma, cardiovascular or tumor diseases, a weakened immune system, problems with the kidneys and in pregnancy hyposensitization is usually not possible.
Anyone who chooses to hyposensitize should be informed by their doctor about the different forms of allergy vaccination. One of the most scientifically researched methods is long-term therapy. The allergens are injected under the skin over a period of several years. This form of treatment is also known as subcutaneous immunotherapy.
Initially, the treatment takes place weekly, later one injection per month is sufficient. If seasonal hay fever is present, the start of treatment should be outside the hay fever period. The therapy can be used for allergies to pollen, insect venom, mold, animal hair and house dust mites.
For those who are spontaneous, a treatment with syringes is also possible shortly before the beginning of the pollen season. This short-term therapy lasts about four to seven weeks and is particularly suitable for allergies to pollen. However, the treatment should be completed before the start of the flowering phase. So far, the effectiveness of the short-term therapy is still controversial. To achieve long-term results, it is likely to have to be performed for at least three consecutive years.
Those who are afraid of spraying can also fight hay fever with oral therapy. In this a distinction is made between the sublingual immunotherapy, in which the allergens are taken by drops, and a tablet therapy.
In sublingual immunotherapy, the patient takes drops daily or every two days for a period of at least three years and melts them under the tongue. The drops should be kept in the mouth for at least two minutes. As with the treatment with syringes, a low dose is started, which is then increased continuously.
To exclude severe side effects such as an allergic shock, the first dose of the drops takes the doctor. Even then, the course of therapy must be monitored at regular intervals at the doctor.
A disadvantage of this form of hyposensitization is that so far there are no long-term studies on the efficacy of the therapy. In addition, the costs for sublingual immunotherapy are higher than for syringe therapy. It is advantageous, however, that the treatment is painless and time-saving.
Hyposensitization by tablets
Similar to the drop therapy, the first administration to the doctor takes place during the hyposensitization by means of tablets. For long-term success, the tablets must be taken over a period of at least three years - long-term studies are still missing here. So far, the method can only be applied to an allergy to grass pollen. However, in the future tablets should also be developed against other forms of allergy.
In the treatment of a grass pollen allergy, however, the hyposensitization by tablets is a much higher success rate than when taking drops. The beginning of allergy vaccination with tablets is now possible up to four weeks before the start of the flowering season.
Side effects of hyposensitization
Usually hyposensitization is associated with only minor side effects. If the substance is injected under the skin, redness, swelling and itching may occur at the injection site. By cooling the puncture site, the symptoms can be alleviated quickly, but usually they will fade away after a few hours. If tablets or drops are taken, it can come as an adverse reaction to swelling and itching in the mouth and throat. But here, too, the complaints usually disappear after a short time.
Since hyposensitization is a burden on our immune system, the day of treatment can also lead to general exhaustion. Possible side effects of hyposensitization may be exacerbated by exercise, alcohol or hot shower, so it should be avoided on the day of vaccination.
Very rarely, as a side effect of hyposensitization, an allergic shock can occur, which can have life-threatening consequences. For this reason, the patient will be observed in syringe therapy for half an hour in the office. If any side effects occur during this time, you should tell your doctor. Even with the treatment with drops and tablets, the first intake for safety takes place in the presence of the doctor. Nevertheless, the patient should absolutely be informed about how he has to behave when side effects occur.
Hyposensitization: high success rates
Studies show that patients who are allergic to pollen, dust mites or insect venom can benefit from hyposensitization. Through the treatment, the complaints of the patients can usually be permanently alleviated, in some cases, the symptoms even disappear completely. Despite successful treatment, however, the sensitivity to the allergen remains intact, only the responsiveness of the immune system to the substance is reflected.
The degree of success of hyposensitization is also related to the age of the patient and his symptoms. Anyone who has been suffering from hay fever for a long time and is allergic to several substances will probably achieve lower levels of success than a new allergic person with only a slight degree of allergy.