What Is Allergy Immunotherapy?
Allergy immunotherapy involves exposing patients with moderate to severe allergies to gradually increasing amounts of their allergen. Over time, this process decreases their allergic response and allows for long-term symptom control. There are currently two means of administration, subcutaneous (SCIT) allergy injections and sublingual (SLIT) under-the-tongue drops or tablets.
What Is the Difference Between Allergy Shots and Sublingual Immunotherapy?
Allergy shots and sublingual immunotherapy work in the same manner. They desensitize the immune system to reduce its response to specific allergens. Allergy shots differ from sublingual immunotherapy in how the medication is taken.
Allergy injections must be given weekly or biweekly in an allergist’s office. After the injection, the patient must remain in the waiting room for 30 minutes to verify there is no risk of a severe allergy response, like anaphylaxis. Allergy shots require more of a time commitment and the injections can be uncomfortable for some people. Unlike allergy injections, sublingual immunotherapy can be safely taken from the convenience of your home.
Is Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT) Effective and Safe?
Sublingual immunotherapy is effective and safe. Over the past 30 years, numerous studies have reported on the safety and efficacy of allergy drops. These studies have shown that SLIT has favorable effects on allergy symptoms when compared with a placebo group. The efficacy of specific SLIT medications has been determined through patient-reported symptom scores. Safety data has also revealed that any adverse effects, such as itching, are mild and well-documented. Comparison studies also show that sublingual immunotherapy and allergy shots are equally effective.
What Side Effects Have Been Reported?
Published safety data on sublingual tablets have shown relatively mild side effects. Side effects reported include throat irritation or tickling, mouth itching, ear itching, swelling of the lips or tongue, nausea or stomach pain, or ulcers in the mouth/tongue. Even though these side effects have been reported for SLIT tablets, they are fairly uncommon. While these side effects will generally resolve over time, talk to your doctor if you experience any side effects from your allergy tablets.
What Allergies Do FDA-Approved SLIT Tablets Treat?
SLIT tablets are currently FDA-approved to treat ragweed, dust mites, and grass allergies. If you only suffer from one of these allergies, allergy tablets can provide good relief. For those who have multiple environmental allergies, allergy drops may be a better solution as they can address several allergens at once.
If I Have Multiple Allergies, Can SLIT Target All of Them?
Currently, SLIT tablets are only FDA-approved for use individually, which means if you only have a dust mite allergy, SLIT tablets can provide relief. But if you have multiple allergies, for example to dust and trees, your physician may prescribe allergy drops. Allergy drops are similar to allergy shots in that they can treat multiple allergies at the same time. Two large reviews have shown that allergy drops work well for creating long-term allergy relief in patients. Since allergy drops pre-date SLIT tablets, there are more studies supporting their use than for allergy tablets.
How Long Does Sublingual Immunotherapy Last?
For both allergy shots and sublingual immunotherapy, the treatment process takes between 6 months and 5 years. Studies on sublingual immunotherapy have shown the immune system will have decades of relief after 5 years of treatment, but just 6 months of locked-in allergy relief after 6 months of treatment. Most doctors suggest staying on your allergy immunotherapy treatment for 3-5 years to have lifelong allergy relief. Since every person is different, it’s important to work with your allergy doctor to fine-tune your allergy immunotherapy protocol to find what will work best for your allergies.
Are You Ready for Long-Lasting Allergy Relief?
If you want to know if SLIT is right for you, Wyndly’s here to help. Take on our online assessment to see if you’re a candidate for sublingual immunotherapy and get one step closer to a life free from allergy symptoms!