In the last blog post on allergy shots, we talked about how they can help you manage your allergies by slowly introducing your body to small doses of the allergens that usually trigger your allergic reactions.
We also talked about home-based immunotherapy, which makes immunotherapy even more accessible by allowing patients to administer their own allergy shots at home.
In this piece, we’ll cover another alternative treatment for allergies: sublingual immunotherapy, also known as sublingual allergy drops.
What Are Sublingual Allergy Drops?
Sublingual allergy drops do not require injections. Instead, like the name “sublingual” indicates, a few allergy drops are placed under your tongue until they are absorbed. These allergy drops contain a small dosage of allergens that are custom-made for each patient according to their allergy triggers.
Do Sublingual Allergy Drops Work?
Much like allergy shots, the goal of sublingual immunotherapy (or allergy drops) is to help you control your allergies by building up your immunity and reducing your sensitivity to whatever it is you’re allergic to. Sublingual immunotherapy has three main goals:
- To dramatically reduce or even eliminate allergic reactions when coming in contact with allergens
- To eliminate the need for constant allergy medication intake
- To eventually eliminate the need for sublingual immunotherapy treatment*
*Some people might need to continue maintenance immunotherapy treatment to prolong the effects.
Sublingual Allergy Drops as a Substitute for Allergy Shots
When it comes to allergy drops vs. shots, which works best?
Allergy drops are an excellent alternative to allergy shots, especially for children who may get nervous around needles or adults who are uncomfortable with injections. Moreover, patients can self-administer allergy drops at home with only minimal training.
[Related: Guide to Seasonal Allergy Triggers]
How Do Sublingual Allergy Drops Work?
Once you administer allergy drops under your tongue and the allergens enter the gastrointestinal tract, your immune system tolerates the small amount of allergen concentration.
The number of drops and the level of allergen concentration in each allergy drop gradually increase until you’ve met the main goals of immunotherapy. In other words, you take allergy drops until your allergies are under control!
Afterward, when your body encounters the allergy source, it won’t cause an overreaction and will instigate fewer and less severe allergy symptoms.
How to Take Sublingual Allergy Drops
Drops are most effective when you administer them to yourself three times a day, with regular monitoring from your allergist or ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor to adjust the dosage when needed.
Place drops under your tongue using a dropper-vial, and hold the drops under the tongue for approximately one minute before swallowing. The entire treatment procedure takes less than two minutes.
The length of time a person has to continue taking allergy drops depends on the severity of their allergies. Some patients take them for only months, while others may take them for several years. These are known as immunotherapy phases.
Phase 1 is initial oral tolerance, and it lasts three months. During these three months, your body will begin adjusting to the treatment, and your symptoms will start improving.
Phase 2 is symptom relief. This phase lasts approximately two years and involves the body’s adaptation and tolerance buildup to the allergen source. Patients experience relief from symptoms, but doctors and allergists encourage them to continue treatment to reach long-term tolerance.
Phase 3 is long-term tolerance. During this phase, the body becomes accustomed to exposure, and symptoms continue to dissipate. This phase begins around the third year of sublingual immunotherapy and varies in length depending on the patient.
[Related: Sinus & Allergy Overview]
Sublingual Allergy Drops: Side Effects
Throughout the past 10 years of patients using allergy drops, no fatalities or extreme side effects have been reported.
Rare, moderate side effects vary by patient, but they can include the following:
- Itchy mouth
- Lip and tongue irritation
- Asthma-like symptoms
- Nausea and abdominal cramping
- Eye itching, redness and swelling
- Nasal itching and sneezing
- Hives, itching and swelling of skin
Sublingual Allergy Drops: Cost
Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved sublingual allergy drops, health insurance will not cover this treatment. The cost of sublingual allergy drops will vary depending on your physician and allergen concentrate, but you can expect an out-of-pocket cost of anywhere from approximately $50 to $300 a month.
Although it may sound expensive, when compared to allergy shots, the lack of copay, travel time, deductible and follow-up appointments can save you a surprising amount of money. Plus, these drops typically qualify for health savings accounts or flex spending reimbursement.
Relieve Your Allergies With Dr. Pasha Today!
If you’re interested in learning more about different types of immunotherapy allergy treatment, make an appointment with Dr. Pasha today!