Newest Treatments for Grass Allergy

What are the latest treatments available for grass pollen allergy?

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Allergy to grass pollen can be severe. Martin Leigh/Cultura/Getty Images

Grass pollen is usually the predominant pollen in the air during the summer. Allergy to this pollen can cause sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes, as well as asthma attacks in some people. Grasses can be divided into two major classes: northern and southern grasses. Northern grasses are common in colder climates, and include timothy, rye, orchard, sweet vernal, red top and blue grasses. Southern grasses are present in warmer climates, with Bermuda grass being the major grass in this category.

Most people with significant grass allergy are allergic to most, if not all grasses, on allergy testing, because grass pollens have very similar proteins that cause allergies.

In 2014, the FDA has approved two new products for the treatment of grass pollen allergy. These products, called Oralair and Grastek, are sublingual immunotherapy tablets. Both exist as an oral disintegrating tablet that is placed and held under the tongue. The person is taking these therapies is then asked not to swallow for at least one minute afterwards, and not to eat or drink for at least 5 minutes after that. These tablets are taken once daily, starting generally 3 to 4 months prior to the onset of the grass pollen season – which often starts in April or May. The tablets are taken daily until the end of the pollen season, although in the case of Grastek, can also be taken continuously for a total of 3 years.

Oralair Sublingual Immunotherapy for the Treatment of Grass Pollen Allergy

Oralair is a mixture of five different grass allergens in a single sublingual tablet that is indicated for the treatment of grass pollen allergic rhinitis and allergic conjunctivitis in people 10 to 65 years of age. The manufacturer recommends that Oralair be started four months prior to the grass pollen season and taken every day until the grass pollen season is over.

Multiple studies on hundreds of people using Oralair showed that allergy symptoms and medication use decreased on average 50% when compared to those receiving placebo. Common side effects included throat irritation and swelling, mouth and ear itching, and coughing. While most of these side effects were mild, 0.1% of people experienced a severe allergic reaction resulting in the need to stop treatment with Oralair.

Grastek Sublingual Immunotherapy for the Treatment of Grass Pollen Allergy

Grastek is timothy grass allergen in a sublingual tablet that is indicated for the treatment of grass pollen allergic rhinitis and allergic conjunctivitis in people 5 to 65 years of age. The manufacturer recommends that Grastek be started at least 12 weeks prior to the grass pollen season and taken every day until the grass pollen season is over. Alternatively, Grastek can be taken continuously for three consecutive years. Multiple studies on hundreds of people using Grastek showed that allergy symptoms and medication use decreased on average 20-35% when compared to those receiving placebo.

When taken daily for 3 years, the benefits of Grastek continued for an additional grass pollen season after stopping the therapy, but not during the second grass pollen season after stopping the therapy. Common side effects included throat irritation and swelling, and mouth and ear itching. While most of these side effects were mild, 0.4% of people experienced a severe allergic reaction resulting in the need to stop treatment with Grastek.

Learn about the long-term benefits of immunotherapy.

Sources:

Oralair Package Insert. Accessed April 25, 2015.

Grastek Package Insert. Accessed April 25, 2015.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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