What is Sublingual Immunotherapy?
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is an alternative way to treat allergies without injections. SLIT treats the cause of allergies by giving small doses of what a person is allergic to, which increases “immunity” to the allergen and reduces the allergic symptoms. Unlike injection immunotherapy, which is given as shots, sublingual immunotherapy is given as drops under the tongue. The safety and efficacy of allergy drops is still being established by the FDA, and they are only used off-label in the United States.
When symptoms present, an allergist must first use standard allergy testing to confirm the patient’s sensitivities. Once the allergen is determined, an extract in drop or tablet is prescribed. In office, the patient is directed to keep the extract under the tongue for one to two minutes and then swallow it. The process is repeated at home anywhere from three days a week to daily. During the first four months, called the escalation phase, the dosage of the extract is gradually increased. After the initial appointment, patients should see their allergists once or twice each year for a check-up. It is recommended that sublingual immunotherapy is continued for three to five years to ensure developing a lasting immunity.
Candidates for Allergy Drops
Suitable for both children and adults, sublingual immunotherapy is relatively safe and effective form of treatment for rhinitis and asthma caused by allergies to dust mites, grass, ragweed, cat dander, and tree pollens. Evidence suggests that sublingual immunotherapy may be effective for treating bothersome eyes caused by pollen during hay fever season. Additionally, it might prove an effective therapy for children with mild eczema and is currently being studied for its potential in treating food allergies.
Generally, sublingual immunotherapy risks relate to the nature of the treatment: it is administered at home and without direct medical supervision. Patients should heed the treatment plan provided to them. This will help with identifying and managing adverse reactions and side effects. Side effects among both children and adults are usually local and mild and include itching in the mouth or stomach problems. These can usually be managed by dose adjustments. Adhering to the prescription set by the medical care provider is best.
You must request an appointment with an allergist to see if sublingual immunotherapy is right for you. Vials will take one to two weeks to mix before treatment can start. Patients take the drops in the convenience of their own homes and visit their doctor only once or twice per year. It is recommended that patients keep using the drops for three to five years in order for the body to build up a lasting immunity.
Give us a call to arrange a consultation. Together, we can determine if allergy drops are a good fit for you.