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Allergy drops as effective as shots, study finds

Oral allergy drops may be just as effective as traditional allergy treatments, including allergy shots, a review of studies by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine found.

The researchers looked at 63 published studies involving more than 5,000 allergy sufferers and found that drops, which are typically placed under the tongue and contain small amounts of allergens such as ragweed, dust mites, and pollen, worked just as well in preventing and treating allergy and asthma symptoms as shots. In some of the studies, the researchers found at least a 40 percent decrease in symptoms among oral drop users compared with those who used other treatments, including antihistamines, inhalers, or nasal sprays.

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A majority of the studies were based in Europe, where allergy drops are routinely used to ward off allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and wheezing. An oral drop for allergies is currently not approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The findings suggest that many allergy sufferers may be able to successfully dodge the needle, and instead receive a painless alternative.

BOTTOM LINE: Oral allergy drops may be just as effective as weekly allergy shots.

CAUTIONS: The researchers did not look at the types of allergies for which oral drops may work best.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of the American Medical Association, online March 27

Mindfulness training improves focus and test scores

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Training the mind to concentrate may help students boost their memory and standardized test scores, suggests a study from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Researchers randomly assigned 48 college students to take either a 45-minute mindfulness training class or a nutrition class four times a week for two weeks.

Over the two weeks, students in the mindfulness class were asked to implement the strategies they learned in daily activities. The classes involved sitting in a circle with other peers and focusing on one sense, such as the sound of their own breathing. Students in the nutrition class logged their daily food intake but were not asked to change their diets.

All of the students completed a sample verbal reasoning section of the graduate school entrance exam, the GRE, once before the start of classes and once after the two-week classes ended. The researchers calculated how often the students’ minds wandered while taking the test. Students who took the mindfulness class were distracted less often and received an average 16 percentile-point higher score on the GRE section compared with students who took the nutrition class.

The study suggests that completing mindfulness exercises for even a short while before an upcoming test can help improve focus and memory on test day.

BOTTOM LINE: Training the mind to focus may help boost memory and standardized test scores.

CAUTIONS: Due to the small number of participants, the findings may not apply to all students taking a standardized test.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Psychological Science, March 26

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