4 Spring Allergy Findings Pharmacy Techs Should Know

With spring in full bloom, many are celebrating the blossoming flora, but others are lamenting the yearly onset of their seasonal allergies.

With spring in full bloom, many are celebrating the blossoming flora, but others are lamenting the yearly onset of their seasonal allergies.

Pharmacy technicians looking to stay updated on the latest allergy research should read about the following study results:

1. Prescription Drugs Are Underutilized by Allergy Sufferers

Many individuals with seasonal allergies prefer to treat the condition with prescription medications, but a number of these patients ultimately choose to manage their symptoms with OTC products.

Researchers from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) recently conducted a survey of 501 children aged 12 to 17 years and 500 adults, all of whom had some degree of seasonal allergic rhinitis. Specifically, 45% of patients with spring allergies described their symptoms as moderate, while 38% reported severe symptoms.

Although 62% of participants said they usually use OTC oral medications to manage their allergies, the researchers found that only one-third of these patients were very or extremely satisfied with the products. Comparatively, about half of respondents were very or extremely satisfied with their prescribed allergy treatments, despite the fact that they weren’t necessarily receiving prescriptions for the drugs on a regular basis.

The study authors noted that many health care plans don’t cover allergy prescriptions unless a patient has tried OTC medications first, which often delays or even prevents allergist involvement and prescription treatment.

The results of the survey were presented at the ACAAI Annual Scientific Meeting.

2. Immunotherapy Alleviates Allergy Symptoms in Older Patients

Seasonal allergies can often be problematic for older patients who are generally more likely to have additional chronic conditions. Fortunately, the use of allergy shots and other forms of immunotherapy may prove to be beneficial to this population.

A recent study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAI) examined the effects of immunotherapy in 60 patients aged 65 to 75 years. All of the patients had seasonal allergic rhinitis and received either allergy shots or placebo for 3 years.

After the 3-year period, the researchers found that the use of immunotherapy resulted in a 55% reduction in allergy symptoms and a 64% reduction in the quantity of medication taken to relieve them. The researchers also determined that the effectiveness of allergy shots wasn’t significantly affected by the patients’ aging immune systems.

“It’s important that allergy treatment methods commonly used in young people are also investigated for use in older patients,” said AAAI editor-in-chief Gailen Marshall, MD, PhD, in a press release. “More and more allergists are expanding the age limit for allergy shots as the baby boomer generation enters their senior years. Although there are no doubts about the effectiveness of allergy shots for both adults and children, there hasn’t been much research until now in older patients.”

3. Antihistamines May Slow Exercise Recovery

Patients seeking to get into better shape for the summer may want to be mindful of what they’re using to treat their allergies, as recent study results suggest that antihistamines could affect many of the genes responsible for post-exercise recovery.

In the study, which was published in the Journal of Physiology, 10 men and 6 women aged 23 to 25 years were asked to perform 1 hour of knee-extension exercises at 60% of their peak power, which is equivalent to about 45 kicks per minute. Prior to the exercise, 8 of the participants were given 2 common antihistamines—fexofenadine and ranitidine—at quantities nearly 3 times the recommended dosages of the drugs’ OTC versions.

After analyzing biopsies that were taken both before and 3 hours after exercise, the researchers found that 795 of the nearly 3000 genes that play a role in post-exercise recovery were blunted by the use of antihistamines after 3 hours. However, the drugs seemed to have little effect on gene expression prior to exercise and at its immediate conclusion.

The study authors acknowledged that further studies are needed to determine whether patients should exercise while taking antihistamines.

4. Allergy Medication Linked to Elevated Dementia Risk

Allergy medication may have a negative effect on more than just exercise recovery, as a separate study indicated that the use of anticholinergic agents is associated with brain atrophy and dysfunction.

A research team led by Shannon L. Risacher, PhD, recently analyzed data on 451 cognitively normal older adults across 2 different longitudinal studies. In one of the studies, 52 patients were given anticholinergic medication, while the remaining 350 were not.

The researchers found that participants who had received the allergy medications had lower mean scores on the Weschler Memory Scale-Revised Logical Memory Immediate Recall test, as well as lower executive function composite scores, than those who didn’t receive the drugs. Additionally, patients in the anticholinergic group had reduced temporal lobe cortical thickness and lower total cortical, greater lateral ventricle, and inferior lateral ventricle volumes compared with those in the control group.

Although the study authors noted that further research is needed to determine casualty, they nevertheless recommended that anticholinergic drugs only be prescribed in older adults only if no alternative therapy is available.

“For those who need to take diphenhydramine or other such meds often, I think [pharmacists] might want to advise the patient to see a physician to discuss alternative treatments for their allergies and/or sleep issues,” Dr. Risacher previously told Pharmacy Times.