Allergies and Immunotherapy
My Allergy Treatment
By Loretta Livingstone
I suffer from allergies. Hay fever, dust mite, cats! I have had quite severe reactions to them since I was 11. Probably earlier, but this is when my doctor diagnosed the first one.
For years summer meant sneezing, itchy throat, irritated eyes. There didn't seem to be much on offer to help me.
When I was 17 I discovered Piriton! Relief! Or so I thought! Yup, relief all right. In the form of being knocked right out. I had to take the smallest dose I could find. And it worked - for a while. Over time, though, the Piriton knocked me out less but also worked less well. Foolishly - I was young and rather stupid at the time and didn't read the instruction - I took a friend's advice and upped the dosage. That helped - for a while.
So now I have reached the stage where I am prepared to try Sublingual immunotherapy. This is a treatment which applies minute amounts of the substance you have problems with, in the expectation of it turning your allergic responses off. Does it work? How well did the treatments preceding this work? Read on and see.
This is the story of my continuing battle with hay fever, and my attempt to find a permanent solution through Sublingual Immunotherapy.
Desperate needs call for desperate measures
So now the battle with hay fever really began. On the odd occasions I forgot to take my medication I knew ALL about it. I streamed! I sneezed! I clawed at my eyes and made weird noises as I tried to ease the irritation in my throat. It didn't exactly make for fun times.
And the Piriton gradually became less effective.
In desperation I went for testing. They pricked the skin on my arms with all sorts of pollens and things. My arm drove me crazy with itching and came up with great hives. They told me I was allergic to house dust mite and pollen! Great! I could have told them that! What were they going to do about it? A big, fat nothing. They used to treat it with jabs but, because of health risks they had stopped the treatments.
Some Hayfever Remedies
Two things I am using alongside the immunotherapy are the Beconase spray, which I have managed to reduce considerably (this is good as it can build up pressure in the eye if you use it for long periods) and the last option. Bionase light therapy. (Mine is a different brand as I live in the UK, and I use the equivalent from my local pharmacy. On its own, this isn't sufficient, but if I stop using it I notice my allergy definitely worsens. I like this because there are no chemicals involved, but you should not use it if you have nasal polyps.
These are my base treatment. They need lots more help but I daren't even think about stopping them. They worked well for many years though.
Yup - believe it or not, I tried this. It's worth a go, but I wasn't confident that they wouldn't drop out.
Whatever was I to do next?
I Need Help!
Now I was starting to get desperate. My wedding was coming up, I did NOT want to sneeze my way down the aisle. I tried kenalog - a steroid jab in the backside, for those of you who don't know. Also I had orchids in my bouquet, as they didn't seem to make me sneeze. No orange blossom for this sneezy girl!
Everyone reacts to something, right?
What is your allergy?
For the next 10 years I tried everything going. Some things worked, some didn't. Some worked well - for a while, but my problem grew ever worse. Life was beginning to become more difficult. All year round, but especially in summer. When I longed to have doors and windows open I often had to close them. The arsenal grew. The expense grew! My allergies grew right alongside them!
Then I heard about a product called Grazax. Sublingual Immunotherapy. Small tablets which are placed under the tongue every other day. I asked my doctor if she would refer me to someone who specialised in Immunotherapy. And yes, it seems to be helping. Summer is becoming easier. I still take my medications, but have at least managed to reduce the Beconase. I'm now into my 3rd and final year, and hoping for good results.
And soon we will have the moment of truth. We are approaching June, the hayfever season is about to ramp up a notch. I will let you know how I get on.
It is still early days for me with the Staloral, but I am nearing the end of my third and final year with the Grazax. I am still using Cetirizine, the light therapy, and Beconase, but whereas before these were no longer working and I had reached the maximum of Beconase, now I am down to 1 squirt of Beconase once or twice a day, which is half or less than I was using before. I think, had it been not such a hot summer I would be on 1 squirt each nostril per day. The pressure in my eyes, which the Beconase was causing to rise to the upper limit of safe, has dropped a bit and eill hopefully drop further, and so for me, even if this is as good as it gets, the Grazax has been worth the expense. It is possible that, once the Staloral has reached its maximum effect, I shall be able to reduce the Beconase further. Already I don't expect to need it this winter. I have been comfortable, with very few hayfever problems this summer. Even those I experience are greatly reduced. Three years ago, even on the maximum dose of Beconase I was having lots of problems. I am feeling quite positive.
The Latest Treatment
Finally a company called Staloral have brought out drops for house dust mite! Hurrah! Maybe one day all my problems will be over.
There is a catch - isn't there always? They are expensive. I can only afford one year at a time, and they need to be taken for 4-5 years for optimal efficacy. But the good thing is that many people in the trials found they remained problem free for years afterwards.
The drops need to be taken under the tongue, before breakfast. They come in varying strengths. The adult doses start with the blue ringed bottle, and the doses go up gradually until you graduate to the purple ringed bottle. I have just reached the purple bottle. I am documenting my experiences on Facebook. The reason I am doing this is because I was completely unable to find anyone else who either had undergone, or was undergoing the same therapy. I hope that reading about my experiences will help other people in the same situation.
Please note, Grazax is now being phased out and replaced with Staloral for hayfever. Check with your Allergy Specialist for details. It is annoying that this is happening in the middle of my treatment. If I'd known about it I could have had the more advanced treatment. Sigh!
Documenting my experience.
- My Facebook page
I am documenting my experience here, in the hope of helping others who want to know how it works for me. Please feel free to share your own experiences. I was unable to find any consumer reviews, and would love to know if it has worked for others.
- My Goodreads Author Profile
I am also a published author. You can find me here.
A poem I wrote about hay fever
My eyes - so sore.
Rubbing at them
'til they're raw.
bunged up nose.
on nights like those.
Throat is tickling.
What to do?
how I hate you.
Â© Loretta Livingstone
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