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Allergy Drops May Prove to Be Welcome Relief from Shots

Update Date: Mar 27, 2013 12:32 PM EDT

Spring brings the return of warm weather to many parts of the United States - but, for many people, it also brings allergies. For the estimated 40 percent of Americans with allergies, the most state-of-the-art solution has remained the same for 70 years: shots. But, in Europe, many people have another option: drops. According to a study recently conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University, these drops, taken underneath the tongue, are safe and effective.

As Fox News reports, oral allergy drops are similar in theory to allergy shots. Both treatments involve the administration of the allergen in question, like dust mites, pet dander or pollen, in increasingly large dosages so that a person's immune system can become used to it. Over time, these treatments should allow a person to have reduced allergy symptoms; they can even be eliminated.

According to CNN, the study was conducted by looking at 63 studies. They found that, in eight of 13 studies, symptoms of asthma dropped by 40 percent. The drops also decreased the symptoms of allergy rhinitis, or nasal allergy symptoms like a runny or congested nose. However, the studies often looked at the results of patients who took drops for one allergen at a time, while patients who receive shots normally do so for about eight at a time.

However, the reason that people would prefer allergy drops are numerous. Children or people with a severe fear of needles would likely prefer to take drops instead of shots. In addition, drops are more convenient; unlike shots, they do not need to be administered in a doctor's office. There are cons, of course, to the treatment as well: some people have suffered from adverse reactions, like itchy mouth, swollen lips and even hives. None have been life-threatening, however.

NPR reports that no manufacturer has created allergy drops that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, because increasing numbers of people are asking for them, some doctors prescribe the drug "off-label", which is allowed. However, that comes with risks as well: doctors have to make educated guesses for the quantity of dosages and how long patients should take them, with some studies indicating a need for five years or more. Allergy drops also are not covered by insurance, since they have not been FDA-approved.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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