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Sublingual allergy therapy changes patient’s life

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More than half of all people in the United States suffer from allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Alexandre Schleider, an international finance manager from Paris who now lives in Chicago, didn’t want to suffer anymore.

A long list of allergens including pollen, mold and cats caused Schleider to sneeze and his eyes to water constantly. At 7 years old, a bee stung him in the face, and allergies plagued him from that day on.

Constant sneezing, sometimes every minute for an hour, exhausted him. However, Schleider said, “like everything, you get used to it; it’s mostly uncomfortable. For me the most inconvenient part was starting the day and having an allergy (attack) without knowing why.”

He tried all the big name medications to battle his symptoms—Zyrtec, Claritin, Benadryl—but to no avail. “They made me tired, and I was not a big fan of that. Especially when you have allergies in the morning, it makes your whole day bad.”

After a bout of coughing last year, Schleider’s family doctor referred him to Janaki Emani, M.D., an otolaryngologist at Weiss. Dr. Emani discussed his health history and symptoms, took X-rays and in the end confirmed allergies as the reason for Schleider’s coughing. She also told him about the under-tongue drops she offered patients to cure their allergies.

Dr. Emani is one of a handful of physicians in the region who treat patients using sublingual immunotherapy. She said the drops are formulated to each patient’s specific needs. “If it’s a pollen allergy, the droplets contain a pollen extract. They’re purified and filtered, but it’s the substance itself that you’re placing under the tongue.”

The difference between drops and shots is that patients who use the drops don’t need a physician to administer them. The patient dispenses the droplets daily, without having to make a trip to the physician’s office.

For Schleider, this aspect of treatment was particularly appealing. His job involves travel, often at the last minute, and the opportunity to give himself the droplets meshed well with his lifestyle.

“There are people out there who are suffering because of the inconvenience of taking a day off to go to a physician’s office or because of a fear of needles,” Emani said. “I want to offer something for patients who don’t want to do the shots or who don’t want to spend the time to come in. They should have that option.”

Because the patient receives the allergens multiple times a day, Emani said the doses are smaller than with once-weekly shots, lessening the risk of a severe reaction such as anaphylactic shock.

According to Dr. Emani, patients’ symptoms improve more quickly than with shots—three to four weeks versus months. Schleider can attest to that. He began the drops six months ago and hasn’t taken any allergy medication in the past two months— despite going through high allergy season. “I can tell the drops probably changed my life. I don’t wake up anymore with allergies. I start my day like everybody else.”

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