Sublingual Immunotherapy (Allergy Drops)
Do you suffer from allergies or hay fever? You are not alone. Allergies, or allergic rhinitis, is an extremely common condition, affecting between 10% and 30% of adults and up to 40% of children. In total, allergic rhinitis is estimated to affect approximately 60 million people in theUnited States, resulting in more than 12 million visits to the doctor per year! In addition, the prevalence of allergic rhinitis has been increasing over the past decade!
Allergic rhinitis can cause symptoms such as sneezing, nasal drainage and congestion, itchy watery eyes, headache, fatigue, and many other symptoms that can significantly affect your quality of life. Fortunately, there are many good, safe medications that can be used to help alleviate symptoms, such as antihistamines, nasal steroids sprays, and leukotriene blockers. For most patients, these medications will control allergy symptoms and improve the quality of your life. But for some patients with severe allergies, these medications are not enough and symptoms persist despite medical therapy.
For patients with severe allergies and persistent symptoms despite medical therapy, allergy immunotherapy is indicated for symptom relief. This involves allergy testing to see what you are allergic to, and using these results to formulate a mixture of allergen extracts. This extract mixture is then administered to you on a regular basis for an average of 2-3 years, resulting in a significant improvement in allergy symptoms for approximately 90% of patients. The exact mechanism for how this treatment works is highly complex, but essentially, it “desensitizes” your body to the pollens and irritants in the air that you are usually allergic to, resulting in a decreased inflammatory response and improvement in symptoms.
Traditionally, allergy immunotherapy has been administered in the form of subcutaneous immunotherapy, otherwise known as SCIT or allergy shots. There are many protocols for administering this, but typically this involves a weekly subcutaneous injection starting at a low potency and gradually increasing the potency of the injection until a maintenance level is reached over the period of a few months. While this is a very safe and effective treatment for allergies, some patients choose not to undergo this, or are simply unable to for one reason or another.
We at Capitol ENT are pleased to offer another option for patients who do not want to or cannot undergo treatment with allergy shots. This is called sublingual immunotherapy, or SLIT. With SLIT, instead of administering the allergen extract as a weekly injection, the extract can be administered as daily drops under the tongue, by you, at home. SLIT has been used effectively in Europe for decades, and is now gaining popularity in the United States as well. This option provides many benefits, such as the convenience of administering the treatment at home, the lack of needles or injections, and an excellent safety profile. In addition, while there is still some debate, numerous studies show that sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is just as effective as allergy shots.
Your Capitol ENT physician will be happy to talk more with you about whether sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is a good treatment option for you or your child. If you are interested, do not hesitate to ask us at your next appointment, or call 919-787-1374 to make an appointment at your convenience. Below are some helpful links for more information. Don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!
Jeevan Ramakrishnan, MD.