As summer arrives, so do itchy eyes, sneezing fits and weekly shops for antihistamines to help hay fever sufferers survive their pollen allergies.
According to a new study by scientists at Imperial College London and King’s College London, a new vaccine could provide a more effective and cheaper solution to the problem.
Tests of allergen injections into a high layers of skin have demonstrated a 90% reduction in skin reactivity to grass pollen.
The significant reduction is associated with an increase in ‘blocking antibodies’ in the bloodstream, according to a statement from Kings College London.
The research is published today in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
The results are so encouraging that King’s has today launched a clinical trial to investigate the vaccine as a potential new hay fever treatment.
The researchers say the approach defines a completely new concept in treating allergies and in the future could have an impact on treating other conditions such as asthma and food allergies.
Hayfever affects one in four people in the UK.
An allergic reaction to grass pollen triggers a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes and in some cases asthma symptoms.
For many individuals this can interfere with work or school performance, sleep and social activities. Tablets and sprays may temporarily relieve symptoms, but for severe cases one option is a vaccine to ‘switch off’ the allergy, called immunotherapy.
The vaccines currently used involve high doses of allergen given by injection underneath the skin (subcutaneously) or sometimes as a daily tablet or drops under the tongue.
In most cases this involves large numbers of injections in an NHS allergy clinic or daily tablets/drops taken continuously, which can be inconvenient for patients and expensive for the NHS.
Dr Samantha Walker, Executive Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK, told Huffpost UK Lifestyle: "Hay fever can be a real issue for people with asthma as around 80% of people with the condition say that their symptoms are triggered by pollen.
"This can be so severe that it can impact their career, their time at school and their social lives and can involve expensive and time consuming treatments.
"We will be very interested to see the results of this trial as if it is successful it could lead to potentially life changing treatments for people who suffer with hay fever and also for people with asthma and other allergies."
People with hay fever face could also face a protracted period of suffering each year, according to a report by the Health Protection Agency (HPA)
Rising temperatures due to climate changes could mean that the pollen season may start earlier and finish later.