DALLAS -- Doctors have new weapons in their arsenal to treat allergies.
The FDA recently approved three new sublingual tablets - taken under the tongue - to treat grass and ragweed allergies. The new products, Ragwitek, Oralair, and Grastek can be taken at home, though the first dose must be taken in a health care provider’s office for safety reasons.
North Texas patients are already asking about them. But that doesn't mean they're a fit for many allergy sufferers.
"They're not going to be helpful for most of the people in this area that have allergies,” said Dallas allergist Dr. Gary Gross.
He helped conduct some of the safety studies on the sublingual treatments.
Only people with allergies serious enough to need shots are good candidates for the sublingual therapies, which alter a patient’s immunity, like shots. Patients will need an allergy test to determine if they are truly allergic to the pollen contained in the tablets.
“We have patients who come to our clinic who think that they're ragweed sensitive because they hear that ragweed pollen is high,” Gross said, “and when we test them, we find out they're really marsh elder sensitive. So that ragweed tablet wouldn't help that patient.”
In fact, the two new sublingual tablets for grass don't cover grasses common in North Texas.
"So it's only what we call the 'northern grasses' that are covered by the grass tablet,” Dr. Gross said. “So if you have the local grasses, then the tablet is not sufficient to cover your symptoms."
The sublingual therapies have black-box warnings because serious reactions have been documented. Patients prescribed are required to have an EpiPen, or epinephrine autoinjector.
Nancy was part of the clinical trial to test the ragweed pill, which melts easily under the tongue.
It worked for her then.
"So I'd like to start it again,” Sanders said. “When you're on a study, you can't take any kind of Benadryl or Sudafed. You're not allowed to take anything else, and I didn't have to take anything else.”
Therapy must be started four months before the allergy season, making spring the perfect time to prepare for fall ragweed allergies.
We often forget our pets can have allergies, too! If you have a pet that suffers from hay fever, follow these tips:
- Don't allow your dog to roll in freshly cut grass
- Wipe your pet's underbelly and paws before it comes comes inside
- Give your furry family member a bath every week or two
- Dogs and cats can take some allergy medications, but consult your vet first