Spring allergies get new treatment guidelines

Sneezing season is here again. About 1 in 5 Americans suffer from seasonal allergies or hay fever. But new treatment guidelines out this spring could help those who can't stop sniffling.

For years, springtime meant Kathryn Baker would be faced with weekly visits to the doctor for allergy shots, a time-consuming process that she always dreaded. But thanks to a newly developed immunotherapy treatment, she won't need to see her doctor as frequently.

"It's the first thing I do in the morning," Baker told CBS News. "I come down, pop those little drops in my mouth and wait two minutes and then I'm good to go."

These special immunotherapy drops are changing the way many allergy sufferers get through the spring. They work in a similar manner to allergy shots.

"By introducing these small amounts of what you're allergic to, the person's own immune system becomes more tolerant," Dr. Sandra Lin, an associate professor of otolaryngology focusing on allergy and rhinology at Johns Hopkins University, told CBS News.

A new set of guidelines from the American Academy of Otolaryngology offers the latest advice for diagnosing and treating hay fever. The group also recommends patients use a newer generation of antihistamines that are known to be less sedating. Steroids can also help serious allergy sufferers. Additionally, acupuncture is recommended when a patient wants a more natural way to ease their symptoms.

Doctors should evaluate a patient for hay fever if the person suffers from another condition that's known to be linked to seasonal allergies, such as asthma, eczema and sleep disorders.

Baker says immunotherapy has changed her life. "If it's a really, really pollen laden day I'm going to have a little bit of an itchy nose or something, but not anything like I had before," she said.