The results of the promising clinical trial were published in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers at John Hopkins University tested a new kind of allergy vaccine in people allergic to ragweed by giving them a shot of the vaccine once a week for six weeks. Only 25 people participated in this double-blind study. The symptoms of the 14 people who received the vaccine, as opposed to the 11 who received placebos, were reduced by an average of 60 percent in comparison to the other group.
Nothing conclusive was drawn from the study, which was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. But researchers are hopeful that larger studies will have similar results.
"It is a small study, but it's very promising," says Corn, who did not participate in the study. "Up until now, people have been getting allergy shots for six months, once a month, and then every six months for three years."
Although many people think of allergies as a springtime affliction, plenty of people suffer in the fall as well with itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, post-nasal drip, ear popping, general lethargy, sneezing and coughing.
Allergy shots don't always work, but Corn says they actually are very effective: "They work in 80 percent to 85 percent of the patients who get them. It's just a big time commitment."
A regular allergy shot is supposed to desensitize your system. The new shot works differently.
"What's so exciting about it," explains Corn, "is the duration of treatment. Instead of being treated for six months on a weekly basis and then once a month for a year or two years or three years, this is just a six-week period of time where you're inoculated. Then, after six weeks, you seem to reap the benefits for a sustained period of time."
Here are Corn's recommendations for reducing hay fever pollen indoors:
It's time to see an allergist if you are having symptoms every year at the same time, because that means that chances are that they're allergies and not a cold.
If you're self-treating (which you shouldn't be doing) and you're not getting better after a couple of days, you should be evaluated by an allergist, says Corn. "I believe that everyone should be evaluated, because knowledge is power," she adds. "It's very important to know what you're allergic to, what your triggers are and how to avoid them and get the proper treatment."
But how soon can the public expect to see the new vaccine on the market?
"I think a larger-scale study must be performed, with several hundred people, maybe even a thousand people, and then it will be up for FDA approval," Corn concludes. "Probably not for the next couple of years."