Immunotherapy is widely used by allergy specialists because it treats the underlying cause of allergic reactions instead of temporarily alleviating symptoms. Immunotherapy is designed to gradually desensitize the immune system to specific allergens.
What is Sublingual Immunotherapy?
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is a treatment for asthma and allergic diseases that desensitizes individuals to allergens by delivering a precise, measured dose of allergy extracts to stimulate your immune system – but not enough to cause a full-blown allergic reaction.
It is similar to subcutaneous immunotherapy (i.e., allergy shots), except that the allergy extracts are placed under the tongue and affect the immune system through specialized cells that are found under the tongue. Subcutaneous immunotherapy is delivered in small doses, but sublingual immunotherapy should be delivered in larger doses in order to achieve the desired therapeutic effect.
The dose of allergens is gradually increased over time. This helps the body’s immune system build up a tolerance to the allergens, which can reduce and/or eliminate your allergy symptoms over time. The mixture and concentration of allergen extracts in each prescription of allergy drops is determined by the ordering physician. Eventually, SLIT reaches a maintenance phase during which the dose remains the same.
There are several components that factor into creating the optimal dosage of SLIT. For example, allergen cross-reactivity and antigen biocompatibility should be carefully considered when prescribing SLIT to a patient to ensure efficacy of the particular dose.
According to studies, sublingual immunotherapy is generally well-tolerated with minimal side effects. It is also easier to administer than allergy shots. The sublingual drops can be self-administered at home without the time commitment and hassle of scheduling frequent visits to the doctor’s office.
What Can SLIT Treat?
Allergen immunotherapy may be a good treatment for rhinitis, asthma, and other allergic diseases if:
Allergy medications do no provide adequate relief
Allergic triggers are difficult to avoid
Allergy medications cause intolerable side effects
Long-term use and effects of medication is a concern
Am I a Good Candidate for SLIT?
SLIT is appropriate for most adults and children with mild, moderate, and severe allergies. It is especially beneficial for sensitive patients who are averse to receiving allergy shots (i.e. subcutaneous treatment). Allergen immunotherapy is not recommended for pregnant women, severe uncontrolled asthma, certain heart or lung problems, or if you take a beta blocker for heart problems.
SLIT should not be taken without a physician’s prescription and guidance. Please speak to a physician to determine whether you qualify for SLIT.