Allergy shots (allergy immunotherapy) have been around for decades. For many people, allergy shots can be an effective medical therapy for severe allergy symptoms. For others, the inconvenience of frequent trips to a medical office and fear of needles make allergy shots an unattractive form of allergy treatment. For those patients, allergy drops may be a much better alternative to achieve similar, long-lasting relief of allergy symptoms. (More on that later.)
A Brief History Of Allergies
Allergic rhinitis is among the most common conditions treated in primary care and specialty ENT offices. This condition can vary greatly in severity, frequency, and the symptoms a patient experiences. Common symptoms include watery eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy eyes, nose, and throat. Many patients suffer from these symptoms with only mild intensity, during certain seasons, or when they are around an allergic trigger, such as a particular type of animal. For these patients, allergy problems can usually be resolved by avoiding the allergic trigger and with over-the-counter medication. Others would benefit from allergy testing to definitively identify the triggers of their allergies and the type of immunotherapy needed for treatment.
How Immunotherapy Works
Immunotherapy involves frequently exposing the patient’s immune system to small yet slowly increasing doses of the specific proteins (allergens) that are triggering the allergy symptoms. This process causes gradual desensitization of the immune system to those allergens. Once the body is desensitized, allergy symptoms are typically reduced or resolved.
For many patients, the fear of getting weekly immunotherapy shots overshadows the benefit they would receive. Immunotherapy when medically appropriate is most often declined by patients because of two main factors: fear of needles and/or the inconvenience of actually getting the shots.
For other patients, transportation and time constraints make it impossible to travel to a doctor’s office for weekly allergy shots and then wait for 30 minutes after the injection for safety. The consistent dosing of the allergens is very important, so the inability to go to the doctor’s office consistently is a common reason patients choose not to undergo immunotherapy.
What Are Allergy Drops?
The medical term for allergy drops is sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). Allergy drops are a safe and effective alternative to allergy shots. Allergy drops offer all of the same benefits of allergy shots with almost none of the inconvenience or risk factors. Instead of having immunotherapy medication injected through a needle at a doctor’s office, with allergy drops, a patient simply places drops of the same liquid under the tongue daily while at home. SLIT has been endorsed by the World Health Organization as a viable and effective alternative to allergy shots and has been performed internationally for many years, with comparable effectiveness to shots. Allergy drops are now available in the USA. Similar to allergy shots, SLIT offers immunotherapy that is effective for adults and children and requires a three-to-five-year commitment of consistent treatment. Advantages of allergy drops over traditional allergy shots include:
- Increased safety (decreased risk of anaphylaxis compared with allergy shots)
- No pain due to needles
- No inconvenient weekly visits (typical follow-up with the doctor is every 3-4 months)
If medicine or traditional allergy shots have not been effective in treating your allergy symptoms, or if you want to learn more about this new advance in treating your allergies, contact CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat to see whether you are a candidate for allergy drops.