Does desensitization against pollen allergy really work?

Does desensitization against pollen allergy really work

Pollen allergies affect between 10% and 20% of French people. We take stock of the desensitization treatment with Prof. de Blay, allergist and pulmonologist.

According to specialists, pollen allergy affects between 10% and 20% of French people. What is it exactly?Plants emit pollens to reproduce: these pollens travel through the air, thanks to the wind, and can travel many kilometers“, begins Professor Frédéric de Blay, pulmonologist and allergist.

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During the pollination season, we all breathe pollen. But in some genetically predisposed people, pollen crosses the lining of the bronchi and the immune system begins to produce specific antibodies (immunoglobulins E or IgE) which cause allergic symptoms.“. There are 3 main allergic symptoms: allergic rhinitis (runny nose, stuffy nose, itchy nose …), the allergic conjunctivitis (red eyes, weeping eyes, puffy eyes …) and theallergic asthma.

The most common allergens are grass pollens (which are emitted by hay, grass … between April and July in France, depending on the region) and birch pollens (which are issued between April and May in France, depending on the region): these are responsible for around 30% of respiratory allergies.

There are also allergies to ragweed pollen (especially in the Rhône-Alpes region between late August and early September), ash pollens (between late March and early April in northern France), or cypress pollen (in the southeast of the country between January and June).

On the website of National Aerobiological Surveillance Network (RNSA), we find a pollen vigilance card which indicates which pollens are currently in circulation in the various departments of France. Practice !

What is desensitization?

Treatment of pollen allergy is a combination of antihistamine drugs (which “block” the inflammatory reaction that causes symptoms) and topical treatments (inhaled corticosteroids, for example) to reduce inflammation. In addition, there are avoidance measures intended to avoid contact with the allergen: “the French Allergology Federation therefore recommends the use of protection’s mask during pollination for those allergic to pollen“underlines Professor Frédéric de Blay.

The desensitization is a treatment which consists in “accustoming” the immune system to the allergen: the objective is for the immune system to produce antibodies not responsible for allergic symptoms at each new encounter with the pollen concerned …

Who is desensitization for?

Desensitization is not offered to all allergic people: it is a second-line treatment for people for whom first-line treatments are ineffective, or who do not tolerate treatment well (drowsiness with antihistamines, for example) or who suffer fromallergic asthma during the pollen season“explains Prof. de Blay.

How does sublingual desensitization work?

Treatment (which is available from the age of 5) consists of taking drops or tablets sublingually, every day for 7 months. “Drops or tablets contain allergenic extracts, that is, allergen concentrate, explains the allergist. The doses are gradually increased until the patient’s immune system is desensitized.“The tablets are, for the moment, reserved for allergies to grass pollens.

Treatment must begin 4 months before the pollen season – which depends on the plant concerned! “In case of allergy to birch pollen, we will begin desensitization in September-October; in case of allergy to grass pollen, it will start in January instead“.

Desensitization and the price: is it (really) worth the cost?

The desensitization treatment lasts 7 months with drops taken daily by the sublingual route, and it should be done for 3 to 5 years in a row“explains Professor de Blay Moreover, desensitization is expensive:”if the drops are reimbursed by Social Security, the tablets only benefit from a reimbursement of up to 15%, which leaves a cost of around 100 euros per month for patients who do not benefit from good complementary health .

Desensitization: does it work?

Yes ! “Desensitization improves the situation of allergic patients by 30% to 40% compared to the standard treatment (antihistamine and corticosteroids by the nasal route)“, emphasizes the allergist. In short: after desensitization, the symptoms of allergy (rhinitis, conjunctivitis, asthma) are much less marked and patients need less medication.

Why do allergic desensitization?What should be understood is that the quality of life of patients who are offered allergic desensitization is comparable to that of patients who suffer fromheart failure : we sleep badly, we breathe badly, we cannot leave our home without having disabling symptoms … For these patients, desensitization brings real improvement“says Professor de Blay.

In addition, desensitization uses natural substances, plays on the immune system with very few side effects and improves the situation of patients (children and adults) who take drugs – such as antihistamines or antihistamines. corticosteroids, which can have side effects, adds the specialist. As for the cost, if it is indeed not insignificant, it is to be put in relation to the expenses to deal with the allergy – drugs, visits to the doctor …“In short, to think about it!

To know. Allergy is a phenomenon that is transmitted hereditarily. So a child so both parents are allergic to grass pollen will have an 80% risk of being allergic as well.

Thanks to Prof. Frédéric de Blay, pulmonologist and allergist at the University Hospitals of Strasbourg, president of the French Federation of Allergology.

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