Biologics Allergies are a nuisance for millions of sufferers worldwide. While the severity of symptoms can vary from light to life-threatening, effectively dealing with allergies can improve the lives of those that live with them. Getting the help of a knowledgeable allergist is the best way to find the most up-to-date treatment that medical science has to offer.
What Is an Allergy?
An allergy is a reaction of the immune system to a substance the body deems as foreign. Potential allergy-triggering substances include pollen, pet dander, dust mites, mold, bee venom and certain types of food or medication. When the irritants come in contact with the body, either externally on the skin or through ingestion, your immune system rushes to react.
The reaction occurs in the form of antibodies that your body produces to defend itself against the perceived threat. Even though an allergen might be harmless to most other people, an allergy sufferer’s immune system overreacts causing a variety of symptoms. Biologics can offer relief for moderate to severe allergy cases.
Symptoms and Reactions
Depending on the allergen, your body will react differently and produce the corresponding symptoms. Allergies can affect nasal passages and sinuses, airways, the skin or the digestive system.
Food allergy symptoms include swelling of the tongue, lips, throat and face. The sufferer can experience hives and tingling of the mouth. Furthermore, anaphylaxis, a severe reaction to an allergen, can lead to shock or even death.
Insect stings can cause itching, swelling and hives. You may experience a cough and shortness of breath. Drug allergies have similar symptoms to insect stings and both can lead to anaphylaxis.
Hay fever causes sneezing, runny nose, itching of the eyes, nose or even the roof of the mouth. You may experience watery, swollen eyes as well.
How Are Allergies Treated Conventionally?
For years, dealing with allergies has consisted of taking drugs or undergoing immunotherapy to mitigate the immune system’s reaction. The former includes antihistamines in the form of ingestible pills, eye drops and nasal sprays while the latter consists of a series of injections. Immunotherapy introduces small amounts of an allergen to the patient’s body so that the immune system can become gradually accustomed to it.
Whether electing to have antihistamine medication on hand or going with immunotherapy, it’s important to understand that allergies remain with you for life. With medical science constantly innovating in all areas of health, there are new ways of treating allergies in a highly-targeted manner.
What Are Biologics?
A biologic drug comes from living organisms or contains parts of living organisms. You may be familiar with biologics used in other fields of medicine. These include blood products, hormones, growth factors and other similar products.
Conventional immunotherapy takes small yet continuously increasing doses of an allergen and injects them into a patient’s body. The allergen is accompanied by antihistamines to keep the recipient’s immune reaction under control.
With biologics, a drug made from a living organism targets specific aspects of the immune system. This targeting allows doctors to treat cases that do not respond well to traditional methods.
Are You a Good Candidate for Biologics?
Biologics are an option for allergy sufferers that can’t find relief from conventional treatment methods. Your doctor will consider you for treatment with biologics if you use your inhaler more than twice a week, need oral or injectable steroids over twice a year or seek urgent care often. Waking up in the middle of the night with symptoms may also prompt your doctor to suggest biologics.
Regularly experiencing any of the above is a sign that your current treatments may not be effective at keeping you comfortable. Keep in mind that before seeking treatment with biologics, you should make sure that you are using your previously prescribed medication correctly. Your allergy doctor will also ensure that your symptoms aren’t caused by another medical condition before embarking on treatment with biologics.
Different biologics offer relief from different allergies. Here are some of the options your allergy doctor will discuss with you.
Dupixent is a biologic medication that offers treatment for eczema. Receiving FDA approval in 2017, Dupixent is available for patients 18 and older.
Xolair has been on the market since 2013 and is the only biologic treatment used for the treatment of severe allergic asthma. You can ask your doctor about this innovative drug if your inhaled corticosteroids do not help you keep your allergic asthma in check.
Nucala received FDA approval in 2015 and offers relief for patients suffering from eosinophilic asthma. This type of asthma is severe and may not respond well to conventional asthma medication. Your allergy doctor will conduct a blood test to determine whether Nucala can provide relief for your asthma.
Much like Nucala, Fesenra is useful in the treatment of eosinophilic asthma. The first three doses of this biologic are given to patients over about three months.
Benefits and Side Effects of Biologics for Allergies
The increase of environmental pollutants in the atmosphere is causing allergies to become more common. At the same time, the number of people with moderate to severe cases is growing. The prevalence of asthma and other conditions is making biologics a common treatment sought by patients and prescribed by allergy doctors.
Opting for biologics comes with several benefits to the patient. Sufferers experience better lung function, require fewer visits to urgent care facilities and require lower dosages of medication. They also tend to miss fewer days from work and have less of a need for oral steroids.
Due to their ability to target specific allergic responses, biologics tend to cause fewer side effects than their conventional counterparts. Some of the side effects you may experience include muscle aches, headache, fatigue, sore throat, redness and back pain.
About the Procedure
In your first consultation, your allergy doctor will ask you about your medical history. They will conduct an exam that may include blood work to determine which course of action is best for you.
Biologics are administered via injection or intravenous infusion at your doctor’s office. To ensure you don’t have a bad reaction, your doctor will have you stay at the office for up to a couple of hours post-treatment.
Irritation is common at the injection site so there is no need to worry if you notice redness. As some of the side effects are similar to the allergy itself, your doctor will inform you on how soon you can get back to your normal activity. Your doctor may also advise you to have a friend or loved one drive you home.
You shouldn’t be discouraged if you don’t immediately find that your allergy symptoms disappear. It may take as long as three to four months to see noticeable improvements. Keeping track of your symptoms and communicating them with your doctor is important for gauging the course of your treatment.
Don’t Settle to Live in Discomfort
Allergies can cause you to miss out on life while being a burden on your productivity. They can also be annoying and even dangerous to your health.
You shouldn’t have to settle for the uncertainty and discomfort that come with dealing with allergy symptoms. If your allergies don’t respond well to conventional medication, examine the possibility of biologics with your allergy doctor.