While allergy medications can help take the edge off of symptoms temporarily, there’s one big problem: The medications do nothing to modify the actual source of the allergy, so once you stop the meds, the symptoms usually return.
That’s where immunotherapy comes in. It is the only treatment that has been shown to alter the underlying allergic disease. In essence, it reroutes your immune system so that your body stops overreacting to harmless allergens (pollens, pet dander, etc.) in ways that send your body into an allergic tailspin. When immunotherapy has worked successfully, you don’t need to keep reaching for medications because your body isn’t reacting in the first place!
So why don’t more people sign up for immunotherapy? One big reason: shots! Aside from being painful, shots are a hassle. Due to the risk of anaphylactic reaction, shots must be administered at the doctor’s office. That means driving to a medical clinic a couple times a week! What many people don’t know, though, is that there’s an easier, safer way called sublingual (under-the-tongue) immunotherapy.
With shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy), the allergy “serum” is injected into the skin where it absorbs into the bloodstream. With allergy drops, the serum is dispensed under the tongue and absorbed into the bloodstream through special cells in the mouth-different methods of getting to the same result!
Because sublingual immunotherapy is safer than shots, it can be taken at home rather than at the doctor’s office-a big perk! SLIT can also safely be prescribed to younger children than shots can. (Shots aren’t usually recommended until kids turn 7 or 8, but SLIT has been found to be safe for kids under age 5).
In some European countries, nearly half of all allergy treatment is taken sublingually. The U.S. has been slower to embrace sublingual immunotherapy, but the tide is slowly changing as more and more physicians offer SLIT. Some insurance plans won’t cover sublingual immunotherapy yet, but even so, it is still often cheaper to pay cash for SLIT than to pile up co-pays for allergy shots and spend time and money shuttling back and forth to the doctor’s office.
Sublingual immunotherapy may well be the “treatment of the future” in America as allergies continue to increase and sufferers want to curb them without the time constraints and heightened risks of allergy shots.