A Safer, Simpler form of Allergy Shots: Under-the-Tongue Drops

If you have allergies, there are two major routes for treatment. The first is to try to treat the symptoms with pills and other medications. This won’t help with the source of the problem, but it can take the edge off of the symptoms such as sneezing and a stuffed-up or runny nose. The second option is to treat the allergy itself using immunotherapy.

sublingual allergy medication

Immunotherapy works a bit like immunizations. It exposes your body to problematic allergens and helps your body build an immunity to them. That way, the next time you breathe in a bit of ragweed pollen or pet the neighbor’s cat, your body won’t digress down the path of miserable allergy reactions.

Until a few decades ago, the only way get immunotherapy was through allergy shots. While effective, shots presented a few problems. First, they hurt! Second, they weren’t great for kids less than 7 years old—partially because of the scary needles and partially because of the risk of anaphylactic reaction that they presented. And finally, because of their safety risk, shots had to be taken under medical supervision. That meant that you had to go to the doctor’s office a couple times a week for injections.

In the 1980s all of that changed with a new version of immunotherapy known as sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT. As with allergy shots, SLIT starts with a mix of antigens in a saline solution. But instead of entering the bloodstream through the skin, the antigen mix is absorbed into the bloodstream through mast cells in the mouth.

This was exciting news for young allergy sufferers because, unlike allergy shots, SLIT has been shown to be safe for children under five. It was also exciting news because SLIT was shown to be safer than allergy shots so patients could take the serum on their own without doctor supervision. So instead of driving to a medical office, patients could simply take their daily drops while standing at the bathroom sink or in the car on the way to work.

Drops are very popular in many parts of the world including Europe and South America. More and more American doctors are joining the sublingual immunotherapy revolution, finding drops to be more user-friendly than shots. This ease translates into higher compliance and higher compliance can translate into better results!