What is sublingual immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy treats the cause of allergies by giving small doses of what a person is allergic to, which increases “immunity” or tolerance to the allergen and reduces the allergic symptoms. Unlike injection immunotherapy, which is given as shots, sublingual immunotherapy is given as drops under the tongue.
How does the process work?
The first step is to confirm a patient’s allergies through allergy testing. Then, a custom-mixed vial of drops is prepared for the patient. The patient takes drops under the tongue daily. During the first four months, called the escalation phase, the dosage is gradually increased. After that, in the maintenance phase, the patient takes the same dose of drops each day.
Is sublingual immunotherapy safe?
It is very safe, for both adults and children. Patients take the drops in the convenience of their own homes instead of going to a doctor’s office every week for shots. The World Health Organization (WHO) has endorsed sublingual immunotherapy as a viable alternative to injection immunotherapy.
Over the past 10 years, the safety of SLIT has been well documented. Serious and fatal reactions to SLIT have not been reported to date. Mild side effects, such as an itchy mouth, occur in the majority of people, and moderate side effects have been documented (1 in about every 12,000 doses), including:
• lip, mouth and tongue irritation
• eye itching, redness and swelling
• nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and diarrhea
• sneezing, nasal itching and congestion
Does sublingual immunotherapy work?
Many published scientific studies have shown that it significantly reduces allergy symptoms. Results are usually seen by patients in 3-5 months but maintenance doses must continue for the best results.
Allergy drops have been proven to work for allergic rhinitis and allergic conjunctivitis (hayfever like symptoms) and to a lesser extent allergic asthma. It is commonly prescribed in Europe to treat those ailments.
How long must I continue the treatment?
We recommend that patients keep using the drops for two to five years so that the body will build up a lasting immunity.
How do I start sublingual immunotherapy?
Request an appointment for allergy testing and an evaluation to see if you are likely to benefit from sublingual immunotherapy. If you are, the vials take one to two weeks to mix. Dr. DeLorio will see you once or twice per year to monitor your progress. During therapy, your vials will be automatically shipped to you, so no worrying about getting to the pharmacy for your refill.
How long must I continue the What are the costs? Will it be covered by insurance??
Most insurance plans do not cover sublingual immunotherapy. It is considered an FDA “off-label” use. It is important to note that when compared with the cost of allergy shots, sublingual immunotherapy may be a more economical choice. The cost is approximately $2 per day for the average patient.