A patch containing pollen extracts can relieve the symptoms of hay fever by up to 70 per cent, according to researchers in Zurich.
In the West, one in three people is allergic to grass pollen, which is disseminated in the air roughly from the beginning of May to mid-June.
At present the only effective treatment is an immune therapy involving injections. This lasts many years and can in a few cases trigger life-threatening side effects. As a result, only five per cent of sufferers opt for the procedure.
Now, a team at the Clinical Trials Centre of Zurich University Hospital says a patch worn on the arm, containing allergens from six types of grass pollen, relieves symptoms by up to 70 per cent.
Even a small dose reduced runny noses and eyes by around 30 per cent, researchers reported in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
They said there were no serious side effects among the 132 volunteers who applied a patch once a week for two months before the pollen season. However, almost a tenth of the subjects stopped the trial because of a rash or itching.
The treatment is not yet ready for daily clinical practice.
swissinfo.ch and agencies