MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Forty percent of us suffer from some kind of seasonal allergies. But the best relief – allergy shots injected monthly or even weekly – can be painful.

But Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration will consider approving an allergy tablet that gives the same kind of help, but without the pain.

After years of suffering, Kris Phillips needs a weekly trip to the doctor to get relief.

“My allergies are under control,” Phillips said. “I can sleep through the night and not get up 10 different times because I can’t breathe.”

She needs three shots per visit, mixed with 15 different allergens, to build up her body’s tolerance.

“You get used to them,” she said. “But yes, they’re definitely uncomfortable.”

There are plenty of oral medicines for allergies, but they work differently; treating symptoms rather than building up the immune system.

But now, there are tablets that contain grass pollen and dissolve under the tongue. And another one has been developed for ragweed pollen, which causes hay fever.

Dr. John Sweet of the Fairview Lakes Allergy Clinic the problem is that most patients are allergic to a number of things, like Phillips. And each tablet only treats one type of allergy.

“If you are only bothered or have severe symptoms in August, let’s say, when ragweed’s out, and fine the rest of the year, [then] yeah, you would be an ideal patient,” Sweet said. “It is a rare patient that I treat for just two allergens. If they have just two, they’re often not going to the allergist.”

Another drawback is the dosage. Patients need to take a tablet a day for the 16 weeks before their allergy season begins, which builds up the body’s resistance. But this can cause its own kind of pain.

“There’s a lot of non-adherence to medications,” he said. “It’s very difficult to get patients to take a pill every day.”

The grass allergy pill has already been approved by the FDA and could hit the market this summer. The ragweed tablet will get its FDA hearing Tuesday, and it’s unclear how quickly it could be available.

Still, Phillips isn’t holding her breath.

“If it was something that would take care of my allergies, I’d be all for it,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ll give up my shots.”

Because patients are putting something they’re allergic to under their tongues, they may have bad reactions. Therefore, the first dose must be taken at the doctor’s office.

Liz Collin

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