Treating Cat Allergy without Allergy Shots
August 30, 2007—Taking an under-the-tongue (sublingual) cat dander extract may reduce symptoms such as sneezing, itchy eyes, or cough in cat allergy sufferers. This finding is good news for people with cat allergies who have had to undergo allergy shots to treat the problem.
The process of giving a person increasing doses of the substance they are allergic to is known as immunotherapy. With time and repeated doses of the substance, the body learns to tolerate the allergen and symptoms improve.
In this double-blind study, published in Allergy, 50 people with a clinical diagnosis of cat allergy were randomly assigned to receive either under-the-tongue cat dander extract or placebo. For 12 months, the people in the cat dander extract group were given increasing doses of the extract until they reached a daily maintenance dose. They were instructed to keep the liquid under their tongue for at least two minutes before swallowing. After one year of treatment, results showed that 62% of the group given the extract experienced fewer symptoms when exposed to cats, while there were no significant improvements in the placebo group.
According to Dr. Emilio Alvarez-Cuesta and his colleagues, “The first-line therapeutic measure in cat allergic patients is to remove cats from the domestic environment.” The authors point out, however, that this is unrealistic and insufficient in many cases and say that “cat immunotherapy is the only treatment able to alter the natural course of cat allergy.”
The under-the-tongue immunotherapy was well tolerated by the participants but the study was not designed to assess safety, so results should be considered preliminary.
People who suffer from cat allergy should talk to their doctor about treatment options including immunotherapy as a way to improve and reduce symptoms. Not all people improve with immunotherapy, but for those who respond favorably, treatment may help significantly.
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Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, Web sites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
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