MU Health Care predicts severe allergy season

Columbia uses more oral allergy drops than any other city in the United States.

MU Health Care allergists are expecting an exodus of pollen in the air this spring due to the amount of moisture Columbia received in the winter.   In preparation for the intense spring allergy season, MU Health Care officials are offering an alternative to allergy shots. They’re called allergy drops and are taken orally as opposed to usual immunotherapy treatment, and even those who will be unaffected by the exodus of pollen this spring will be able to use allergy drops.

“We test people, of course, for their allergy, and we use the results of the test to choose allergens and put them in the drops,” MU Health Care allergist Al Barrier said. “It can work with all the pollutants as far as allergens are concerned including mold, trees, pollen and dust mites.”

Allergy drops develop necessary down-regulating or “turn off” mechanisms in the body that prevent allergic reactions.

“In our immune system we have various components that react to different things,” Barrier said. “It has a turn on mechanism that allows us to react, but it also has a turn off component that stops the reaction before it gets too inflammatory. An overreaction is caused by a lack of the turn off mechanism.”

Since allergy drops build up down-regulating systems, it fixes that person’s allergies permanently. Generally allergy drop therapy takes about four years to complete. Shot immunotherapy takes about the same time, but the user will be allergic again after two years, Barrier said.

“When you get off the drops you won’t be allergic again,” Barrier said. “And of course you can do them at home. There’s no chance of having bad reactions with them, which you can have with shots, making it the best of both worlds.”

Although the drops have been around for about 35 years, it’s fairly uncommon in the United States since the technology was developed in Europe. Barrier said about 15,000 people in the area are using the drops, making Columbia the largest user of the drops in the U.S.

“I don’t know if it works because I don’t know anyone who takes it, but it sounds like a good idea instead of allergy shots,” sophomore Andrea Braxton said.

Another advantage of taking the drops is that the glycerin used to preserve the allergens taste like candy, making the daily two-minute treatment a delicious experience. Barrier said allergy drops will probably become more popular in the U.S. throughout the next five years.

“The more science done on it, the more it’s supported,” Barrier said. “The treatment's time has come.”

Braxton said taking allergy drops would be better than taking allergy shots.

“My mom wanted me to get allergy shots for a while, but I didn’t want to get jabbed a lot, but I think this would be fine,” Braxton said.

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