Allergies – hyposensitisation (desensitisation) can help

Allergies – desensitisation (hyposensitisation) can help

A reaction to pollen in the air (hay fever) is the most common form of allergy in our society. Specific hyposensitisation can help against this and other allergies. Read more about the ideal time for desensitising and what it involves.
The classic symptoms of a pollen allergy (hay fever) are a runny nose, burning eyes and itchy throat. Hay fever is the most widespread allergy in our part of the world, affecting around 22% of men and 26% of women in Switzerland (statistics from 2017). Autumn usually brings relief, which makes it the ideal time to make a start on desensitisation. This is a method that tackles the root cause of the allergy, and has the potential to significantly reduce or even eliminate the symptoms entirely. Desensitisation may also prevent an allergy from triggering asthma.

The ideal time

In autumn, the air is pretty much pollen-free, and the body is therefore no longer exposed to these allergens. "When it comes to pollen allergies, autumn and winter are the perfect time to slowly and gently accustom the body to the allergens using immunotherapy," according to Dr Silke Schmitt Oggier, Medical Director at santé24.

Other allergies that can be treated using desensitisation

Desensitisation can also be used to treat year-round allergies such as allergies to dust mites or mould. It can also help with allergies to animal dander, although this is sometimes more difficult on account of the wide variety of breeds and therefore allergy types. Treatment of year-round allergies can start at any time. In the case of a pet allergy it is best to choose a time when the animal in question is not (yet) living with the allergy sufferer.

Another seasonal allergy is an allergy to hymenoptera venom, i.e. bee and wasp stings. This is another case in which desensitisation can be very useful and even save lives. Treatment should ideally start in autumn or winter when bees and wasps are inactive.

Hyposensitisation is not yet available for food allergies, or at least the intestines cannot be desensitised in this way.

Treatment and procedure

Immunotherapy generally takes about three to five years. First, the allergist administers skin and blood tests to create a profile of the substances to which the individual is allergic. The doctor then uses this profile to put together a personalised plan of treatment with allergens, although hyposensitisation is most likely to succeed if the patient does not react to too many different allergens at the same time. The allergist can provide more information in this regard once the allergy testing has been carried out. The doses are then administered every one or two weeks by injection into the upper arm under medical supervision or, alternatively, taken as drops or tablets every day under the tongue. The therapy is administered in short intervals at first, which are then gradually extended. The dosage is increased each time in order to slowly get the body used to the allergen. To optimise the chances of success, the immunotherapy should be administered without interruption.

(Video in German)

Hay fever or pet allergy?

Do you only experience the symptoms of the allergy when you are outside, or also when you are inside? Are they perhaps strongest when there is an animal nearby? There are lots of different potential triggers for allergies, including pollen, dust mites and animal dander (please also refer to the health tip on pet allergies). You can take the "sniffle test" (in German, French and Italian) yourself on the website of the aha! Swiss Allergy Centre. This will make it easier for the allergist to identify the root cause of the problem. Simply bring the test results with you to the consultation and discuss them with your physician.

You can find out more about desensitisation and the various allergy tests on the website of the aha! Swiss Allergy Centre.

In the event of further health-related questions, SWICA customers can contact the santé24 telemedicine service free of charge on +41 44 404 86 86. A telemedicine practice licence allows santé24 physicians to provide additional medical services in cases that are suited to a telemedicine approach. SWICA customers can also use the BENECURA medical app to carry out a digital SymptomCheck and receive recommendations about what to do next. During a subsequent phone call with santé24, customers can decide for themselves whether to release their information from SymptomCheck to santé24.