Many doctors don’t even consider starting allergy shots in people over age 65. And patients who are that age often assume that they are somehow “too old” for allergy shots.
Allergy shots—a form of immunotherapy that desensitizes your body to your allergens—work fine for older people. So finds the first double-blinded, placebo-controlled study of the treatment for people in this age group, whose immune reactions often aren’t as robust as those of children or middle-aged adults.
In the study, men and women between age 65 and 75 who had grass pollen allergies, a common seasonal affliction, got allergy shots every week from January through April for three years. Others got placebo shots.
Results: Allergy symptoms for those who got the shots went down 55%, and they took 64% less medication. There were no serious adverse effects, although there were a few cases of temporary skin hives. While the study was limited to grass pollen, there’s no reason to believe that allergy shots wouldn’t be just as effective for other seasonal allergies such as tree pollens and ragweed (hay fever).
A key benefit: Needing fewer meds, especially antihistamines, which cause dangerous drug interactions or side effects such as confusion and constipation in older people. The alternative—not taking antihistamines—is problematic, too, since allergies can make other conditions worse…and suffering in silence isn’t very pleasant.
If you’re interested in allergy shots, check with your doctor—they are safe even for many people with heart disease or diabetes.
WILL OTHER ALLERGY TREATMENTS WORK, TOO?
The first-of-its-kind research also opens up the possibility that other allergy treatments may be effective in older people…such as allergy drops (sublingual immunotherapy), in which the target allergens are placed under the tongue rather than injected.
The good news about allergy drops is that they can work in as little as six weeks—allergy shots need a year to start working and a full three years to be maximally effective. So…if you start soon with allergy drops, you could still be protected this year from grass pollens (late spring/early summer) or ragweed/hay fever (summer/early fall). To learn more, see Bottom Line’s Allergy Drops: Pain-Free Help for Allergy Sufferers. You can also learn about natural ways to relieve seasonal allergies in Bottom Line’s guide Stop Seasonal Allergies—Without Drugs.