WHAT IS SUBLINGUAL IMMUNOTHERAPY?
Allergy drops, also known as “sublingual immunotherapy”, is an alternative to traditional allergy injections (“allergy shots”). Like allergy injections, it is a natural, non-drug treatment for symptoms triggered by environmental allergens such as pollen, mold, dust mite, animal dander and stinging insects. It is specifically formulated for each patient using the same FDA approved allergens used in allergy injections. While the allergens used are FDA approved, their use in formulating allergy drops has not been approved by the FDA. This is known as an “off label” use of the allergens.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Allergy drops are administered under the tongue and work like a vaccination by gradually decreasing your body’s abnormal or “allergic” immune response to typically harmless environmental allergens. By decreasing your sensitivity and increasing your tolerance upon exposure to these triggers, allergy symptoms are reduced.
HOW EFFECTIVE ARE ALLERGY DROPS?
Most clinical trials and surveys published over at least 20 years show that SLIT is relatively safe and effective for the treatment of nasal allergies, eye allergies, and asthma caused by dust mites, grass, ragweed, cat dander, and tree pollens. In 2013, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (www.AHRQ.gov) concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support the overall effectiveness and safety of allergy drops for treating allergies and asthma. High quality studies directly comparing allergy drops and shots directly have not been performed, however most allergy experts agree that the available evidence supports the use of allergen injections over drops when possible.
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM ALLERGY DROPS?
Patients with nasal symptoms, eye symptoms, sinus infections, or asthma triggered by environmental allergies may benefit from allergy drops. These conditions may include symptoms such as: runny nose, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, sneezing, sinus infections, itchy/watery eyes, as well as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath. Once the 3-5 year course of immunotherapy is complete, the majority of patients have long-lasting benefit with less of the daily hassle and costs of environmental controls and medications.
Patients suffering with allergy-induced asthma, one of the most common forms of asthma, have also been shown to have decreased asthma symptoms and need less asthma medications when incorporating allergy immunotherapy into their treatment regimen.
WHAT ABOUT COST?
The cost of allergy drops is not covered by insurance and is therefore the responsibility of the patient.