Subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), more commonly known as allergy shots, has long been considered the standard for allergy immunotherapy in the U.S. In recent years, though, sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) has emerged as a favorable alternative with some significant perks. SLIT works like allergy shots, helping the body develop immunity to common allergens. However, instead of being injected, SLIT is dispensed as liquid droplets under the tongue and absorbed into the bloodstream by specialized cells in the mouth. SLIT is safer than shots, allowing for home administration. It is also safer for younger children than shots are. (Shots cannot usually be prescribed to children less than age 7).
SLIT, which gained popularity in the 1980s, is a newer treatment than SCIT; however, it does not lack for a sizeable body of supporting, research-based evidence. Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies published in the past two decades verify the safety and efficacy of sublingual immunotherapy. In fact, a pivotal 2007 ARIA paper (Allergic Rhinitis and its Impact on Asthma) showed that according to World Health Organization standards, SLIT has surpassed SCIT in terms of the amount of modern research backing it and the quality of that research.
Additionally, the Cochrane Collaboration (globally regarded as the gold standard in evidence-based health care) reviewed 22 studies involving nearly 1,000 SLIT patients and concluded that sublingual immunotherapy is a safe treatment that decreases common allergy symptoms (such as allergic rhinitis).
While more insurance companies cover allergy shots than sublingual immunotherapy, it’s worth noting that many cash-pay patients still find it cheaper to pay for the allergy drops than to cover the insurance copays involved with allergy shots (not to mention the hassle and cost of driving to the doctor’s office for shots).
For more information on sublingual immunotherapy research, click here.