New Allergy Treatments on the Horizon

As the days grow longer and warmer, people start spending more time outdoors. But it's a mixed blessing for the 40 million Americans with seasonal allergies. Researchers are stepping up efforts to develop simpler, safer and more effective treatments.

In Europe, a popular alternative to allergy shots are allergy drops -- high doses of an allergen extract placed under the tongue.

Someone allergic to grass pollen, for example, would get increasing doses of grass pollen extract, which gradually desensitizes the body.

"It's a long-term process, just as the injections, but you don't have to go to a doctor's office," said Dr. Harold Nelson, a professor at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver.

The drops are now being tested for approval in the United States.

Researchers are also testing new nasal sprays in clinical trials.

Nasal Sprays

Unlike current sprays, which reduce some of the symptoms, the new class of medication appears to actually prevent allergies.

"It acts to block the release of all of the chemicals that cause allergic symptoms," Nelson said.

The spray takes effect quickly, usually within 30 to 45 minutes.

Ultraviolet Light

Perhaps the most cutting-edge allergy treatment is ultraviolet light therapy.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers shined light into patients' noses three times a week, in effect, paralyzing the cells that trigger an allergic reaction.

"The results were quite impressive in terms of reduction of symptoms," Nelson said.

If approved for use, the novel treatments could help allergy sufferers within the next few years.

ABC News' John McKenzie filed this report for "World News Tonight."

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