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BMC Provides Relief for Allergy Sufferers

Boston – May 31, 2011 – Allergy sufferers can now find relief from their symptoms without weekly appointments or the fear and pain of allergy shots. Physicians at Boston Medical Center (BMC) are now offering sublingual (under the tongue) immunotherapy to adults and children suffering from seasonal and year-round allergies. BMC is the only Boston teaching hospital to offer this treatment method.

Allergens cause an immune response within the body, causing affected areas to release histamine and other substances that irritate and inflame tissues.One out of every five Americans suffers from allergies. Common inhalant allergies result from exposure to grass, weed, tree pollen, dust mites or various molds. Cat or dog allergies also may cause symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion and wheezing. Disorders including asthma, sinusitis, ear infections and laryngitis can be exacerbated by allergies.

Unlike traditional treatment for allergies where a patient would need to visit their physician on a weekly basis from anywhere from two to four years to receive their allergy shots, sublingual immunotherapy treatment involves placing a drop of immunotherapy serum under the tongue in the comfort of the patient’s home on a daily basis. In addition, this treatment typically only requires a visit to the allergist every six months. Research has found that allergy sufferers who receive sublingual therapy have few adverse reactions such as itching under the tongue or in the mouth.

BMC’s department of otolaryngology has a large allergy practice with more than 150 patients currently receiving immunotherapy, either via subcutaneous injections or sublingual immunotherapy. “We have found this treatment method works best for patients with single or multiple allergies whose allergic symptoms are refractory to medication. Patients who do not have the time to come for a weekly allergy injection at their doctor’s office or who are wary of needles are ideal candidates for sublingual immunotherapy,” explained Elizabeth Mahoney, MD, an otolaryngologist at BMC and an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Boston University School of Medicine. “This treatment represents a leap forward in being able to treat allergy patients who might not otherwise have been able to receive traditional immunotherapy,” she added.

Although this treatment is not yet covered by insurance because of off-label use of the medicines, the fact that patients no longer need to make weekly visits for their shots could result in less out-of-pocket expenses. “Patients who no longer need to visit their doctors weekly are saving on co-payments, transportation and parking costs as well as from less time off from work or school. In the end, sublingual treatment may pay for itself as well as being more convenient and less painful,” added Mahoney.

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