Three years of pollen medication can curb hay fever symptoms

19 February 2017

Hay fever sufferers can “suppress” their condition if they take pollen pills or undergo injections for at least three years, new research suggests.

Past studies have shown that giving patients an increasing dose of pollen extract over time was an effective way to reduce symptoms such as itchy eyes, runny nose and constant sneezing.

But experts at Imperial College London have now found that symptoms can be noticeably reduced following a three-year course of treatment of immunotherapy, rather than the standard two-year course.

"You treat patients for three years and then they have a big improvement in their hay fever for several years afterwards," said study leader Professor Stephen Durham. "Exposing people to grass pollen in this way is a very effective treatment for people who really have debilitating hay fever."

For the study, researchers tested the effectiveness of two immunotherapies prescribed by the National Health Service (NHS) which use grass pollen extract; an injection and a pill taken under the tongue.

All 92 patients in the study had moderate to severe hay fever and were given either the daily oral treatment, weekly injections for 15 weeks followed by monthly boosters, or a placebo.

After a two-year course of treatment, the findings saw both therapies were effective at fighting off symptoms, with participants reporting a big improvement in their quality of life.

However, one year after patients had stopped taking the medication the effects were no better than the placebo group.

Accordingly, Professor Durham states that while both immunotherapy treatments were highly effective, two years of treatment was insufficient for long-term benefits.

“Clinicians and patients should continue to follow international guidelines that recommend a minimum of three years' treatment,” he said.

Results were published in the journal JAMA.

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