To call allergen immunotherapy time-tested is an understatement. Commonly known as "allergy shots," the introduction of allergen immunotherapy predates Prohibition, and has been an effective treatment for patients living with severe allergies since Herbert Hoover sat in the White House.
Almost a century later, there is an ever-expanding array of effective, once-a-day medication available to treat allergy symptoms. But immunotherapy remains the only treatment that can alter the natural course of an allergic Cascya Charlot, M.D., was recently appointed director of NYM's Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology. disease like chronic rhinitis (hay fever) or allergic asthma, and permanently reduce the frequency and severity of allergy symptoms such as severe congestion, sinus pressure, grogginess and sleeplessness. Furthermore, ongoing research and refinement of immunotherapy guidelines have made immunotherapy treatments for outdoor and indoor allergies more effective than ever before. Perhaps this is why, more and more, Brooklynites are requesting allergen immunotherapy for their children, says Cascya Charlot, M.D., who was recently appointed director of NYM's Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology.
"Children can start immunotherapy as early as age five, and many children living in Brooklyn are just reaching that age," says Dr. Charlot. "A full course of allergen immunotherapy takes time—usually three to five years, starting with weekly visits for injections for the first six months, and then monthly visits for the remainder. However the benefits of immunotherapy can last a lifetime, particularly for children living in New York City, where pollen, mold spores and dust mites can be found around every corner. In addition, the first FDA-approved oral, injection-free immunotherapy (specifically, for grass pollen allergies) became available in 2014. More are sure to come."
For those with milder allergy symptoms that occur seasonally, over-the-counter treatments and lifestyle adjustments may be all that is necessary. Dr. Charlot is quick to point out that a common problem is that many of these patients do not even know that their springtime cold or upper respiratory infections have, in fact, been caused by a seasonal allergy.
"A simple 'scratch test,' performed by an immunologist, would likely have been able to identify that allergy in less than 30 minutes, and get the patient on the road to effective relief of symptoms," says Dr. Charlot. "What matters most is getting started, and finding the right treatment for each individual patient. Many parents of my patients tell me that they wish they had known about allergen immunotherapy when they were growing up, or that they had found out that they were allergic to pollen when they were younger. I tell them that there is no time like the present!"