Nearly one in five Americans suffers from hay fever.

If you’re one of them, especially if grass is your nemesis, now is the perfect time to start taking steps to prevent the miserable malady of sneezing and itching that inevitably happens come springtime.

David Lang, MD, is Director of the Department of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at Cleveland Clinic. He says a newer type of under-the-tongue tablet works best when taken about 3 months before allergy season kicks in to high gear.

“This is actually the right time to be thinking about the grass pollen season to start taking this therapy and front end things so that when the season hits you’re protected,” said Dr. Lang.Timing is everything

Once allergy symptoms start it’s too late to begin the medication, known as sublingual oral immunotherapy tablets.

Like allergy shots, the oral tablets help the immune system build a tolerance to certain allergens resulting in reduction of allergy symptoms and a reduced need for medications to treat symptoms.

The tablet is placed under the tongue, where it dissolves, and is taken once daily.

The first dose is given in a medical setting – just in case there’s an allergic reaction – and the rest can be taken at home.Limited to grass and ragweed

The tablets only treat one kind of pollen allergy – either grass or ragweed so, if you’re allergic to many things, the oral tablets may not be the best choice.

“The ideal patient for the sublingual oral immunotherapy would be a patient that has one sensitization, for instance to grass pollen, or as an individual who may be allergic to other allergens but for them the grass season is their major season,” said Dr. Lang.

Immunotherapy tablets can provide long-lasting allergy relief, but Dr. Lang said people who are allergic to several things, may prefer allergy shots, which can treat several allergies at the same time.