What To Know About Sublingual Immunotherapy
Sublingual immunotherapy (also known as SLIT) is an alternative approach to treating allergies without using needles. It works by the administration of drops under the tongue with increasing amounts of allergens, similar to allergy injections, to increase tolerance or immunity to the allergy itself over time. It is primarily used for the treatment of allergic rhinitis or asthma, resulting from more common allergens, such as grass, dust mites, or general environmentals.
Sublingual Immunotherapy Benefits
Allergy drops are proven to be an effective and sometimes considered a safer alternative for treating allergies. This seems particularly true in patients younger than 7 years old, or some senior adults, where allergy injections are sometimes not well tolerated. In addition, drops can be used as a great alternative for anyone having a fear of needles, typically used in routine allergy shots. Plus, they require less frequent office visits than allergy injections.
How Is Sublingual Immunotherapy Administered?
It begins when a provider performs allergy testing to determine if a patient is allergic or sensitive to specific allergens. Once a diagnosis is made based upon testing results, an allergen extract is prepared in drop form as prescribed. It is administered by the patient under their tongue for about one to two minutes, then swallowed.
How many times a patient administers drops will be dependent upon the prescribing physician’s orders. Patients may be prescribed drops several times per week to everyday. It is not uncommon for patients to use SLIT therapy for allergy treatment for a period of three to five years to truly develop lasting immunity.
For grass and ragweed allergies, patients are usually given the drops before the start and during the height of the allergy season. As for dust mite allergies, drops are typically prescribed throughout the year.
Sublingual Immunotherapy Considerations
People who have been diagnosed through allergy testing with an allergic disease, such as rhinitis and asthma, could be considered a good candidate for sublingual immunotherapy. In addition, women who are pregnant, can continue taking allergy drops but should avoid starting the therapy while pregnant.
While medications like pills and nasal sprays may be enough to keep allergies in check for some allergy sufferers, one big drawback is that they only treat the symptoms. Sublingual immunotherapy has been shown to change the underlying allergic disease.
When determining if a patient needs sublingual immunotherapy, a doctor will often consider:
- Severity – A person may be a candidate for sublingual immunotherapy if their allergies are not just a passing annoyance but are severe enough to markedly affect their quality of life.
- Duration – A person may be a candidate for sublingual immunotherapy if their allergies occur over at least three to four months of the year.
Once a patient has met the criteria for sublingual allergy immunotherapy, they can then decide whether allergy shots or allergy drops (sublingual immunotherapy – SLIT) are a better fit for their lifestyle.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) can be an effective alternative to allergy shots in treating allergic rhinitis or asthma caused by dust mites, ragweed, grasses, and other common environmental allergens. Once a patient has met the criteria for sublingual allergy immunotherapy, they should speak to their provider to decide whether allergy shots or drops (sublingual immunotherapy – SLIT) are a better fit for their lifestyle.