15 February 2017
A three-year programme of treatment for hay fever could dramatically reduce symptoms for sufferers in the long term, according to research led by a team of allergy specialists at the Trust and Imperial College London.
The study, published in the healthcare research journal JAMA, found that being exposed to controlled doses of pollen over three years led to a significant improvement in symptoms over several years.
The treatment, a type of immunotherapy, involves exposing patients to increasing doses of pollen over time to build up their resistance. The pollen is administered either by injection or a daily tablet.
Hay fever affects up to one in four people in the UK and can be debilitating for those who suffer with severe symptoms such as itchy eyes and a runny nose, particularly during the summer months. Most patients respond well to over-the-counter treatments, such as nasal sprays and antihistamine tablets, which are widely available. For those patients who are less responsive, immunotherapy provides an effective alternative treatment.
The trial’s 106 patients, volunteers from Royal Brompton’s allergy clinic, were split into three groups for treatment over two years – one receiving injections, one daily tablets and one a placebo. The patients who took part in the trial all suffer from moderate to severe hay fever.
After two years of treatment, patients receiving injections and taking daily tablets reported a significant improvement in their symptoms and their quality of life, but after another year, symptoms had returned to the same level as the placebo group.
Professor Stephen Durham, head of allergy and clinical immunology at Imperial College’s National Heart and Lung Institute and clinical lead for allergy services at Royal Brompton Hospital, said: "Hay fever causes major impairment of sleep, work and school performance and leisure activities during what for most of us is the best time of the year."
"We have reconfirmed that both immunotherapy treatments are effective but that in order to get the long-term clinical benefits after stopping the treatment, you have to take it for three years."
Max Warner, 51, from London, took part in the trial and received the injections over a two-year period. He said: "My hay fever symptoms improved over the two years of having injections and the following year as well.
"In the peak months I had less of a blocked-up and runny nose, less, if any, sneezing, no irritable or watering eyes, no tight chest and just generally much less of a sense of feeling unwell and having less energy throughout the grass pollen season.
"They are a fantastic team at Royal Brompton. Everyone who was participating felt confident that we were doing something that would make a worthwhile improvement to our health and the health of others. If I had the opportunity, I would carry on receiving the injections."
The world-class allergy service at Royal Brompton hospital is one of the best in the country and offers a wide range of allergy services, including services for patients with difficult to manage allergies that cannot be treated elsewhere.
Find out more about the Trust’s allergy service