Commonly Asked Questions
What is Aspirin Desensitization?
In 1979, researchers at Scripps Clinic began studying aspirin sensitivity in asthmatic patients. They noticed that with each successive dose of aspirin the severity of attacks would lessen. After several small doses of aspirin, the allergic reaction disappeared altogether. Under carefully controlled challenges, patients were gradually able to take full adult-strength doses of aspirin. Some patients said they felt better and could breathe easier in both their nose and bronchial tubes and had a better sense of smell. Dr. Bosso completed a clinical fellowship in Allergy/Immunology at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in La Jolla, California – the architects of aspirin desensitization.
What is Aspirin-Sensitive Asthma?
About 40 percent of asthmatic patients who have nasal polyps and sinusitis are also allergic to aspirin. Even though you may have been able to take aspirin in the past, you are now unable to take it without having a sudden asthma attack or other allergic symptoms. Even though you may avoid aspirin, symptoms like nasal congestion, nasal polyps and repeated sinus infections continue.
What is an Aspirin Challenge?
This is a test to see if you are allergic by giving you a small dose of aspirin in a capsule then observing your symptoms. Patients react to different doses and may have different symptoms. In many cases, the first dose is too small for the aspirin-sensitive patient to react to so increasing doses are used, waiting three hours between each dose.
Is Aspirin Desensitization Safe and What can I Expect?
Yes. If you have not had a prior aspirin challenge to determine your provoking doses a small dose of aspirin will be utilized at first. A nurse will stay with you during the challenge. As soon as you begin to have symptoms, you will be given a treatment to quickly and effectively reverse the reaction. The major risk in this treatment is that you may have a more severe reaction as the dosage is increased. This is why the treatment is undertaken in Nyack Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center under constant medical supervision.
Is This Treatment Recommended for all Asthmatics and Will it Cure Me?
This treatment will only work will those who aspirin triad syndrome or Samter’s triad syndrome where all three conditions are present: an allergy to aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, nasal/sinus polyps, and asthma. While it will not cure you of your asthma we have found that more than a year after being desensitized to aspirin 87 percent of patients have reduced symptoms – less nasal congestion, fewer nasal polyps and less sinusitis. Asthma symptoms have improved and patients require less sinus surgeries and their need for oral steroids is also reduced.