Asthma affects 17 million Americans, killing 5,000 every year. Allergy and asthma sufferers know the misery of sneezing, coughing and shortness of breath, which for many can only be controlled by a lifetime of medication.
But CBS 2's Paul Moniz reports that, according to a recent analysis, immunotherapy, or allergy shots, which only about one in 10 allergy sufferers receives, can not only improve allergies but can dramatically improve asthma.
Dr. Ira Finegold, the Chief of Allergy at St. Lukes Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, says a recent analysis of published studies confirms taking allergy shots can prevent allergies from getting worse and, in some cases, prevent allergy sufferers from developing asthma.
For those who already suffer from asthma, the shots can lessen symptoms such as wheezing and coughing.
Studies show starting allergy shots as young as age 4 provides the best chance at controlling allergies and asthma later.
Research also indicates the shots, which are generally covered by insurance, can prevent hay fever from developing into asthma.
But the regimen takes commitment. Shots must be given weekly, then monthly, for three years.
"After three years, the body makes some changes in the immune system that have changed it from the allergy pathway to the normal pathway," Dr. Finegold explains.
Of course, the allergy shots won't work for everyone and there are currently no studies to determine if their beneficial effects can last beyond three years after stopping therapy.
But specialists believe additional studies will prove that to be the case.
It's estimated about 80 percent of asthma suffers could be candidates for the shots, so see an allergist for an evaluation.
©MMII CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed