Sublingual Immunotherapy is an alternative to allergy injections administered in a doctor’s office. This treatment has been utilized in Europe for decades and is endorsed by the World Health Organization.
In a broad sense, allergies which affect the nasal passages, sinuses, eyes and lungs can be treated by several approaches. One approach is to treat the symptoms caused by the allergens with medications or supplements. This has virtually no effect on the process causing the symptoms, and in the case of medications, has variably unwanted adverse effects and risks.
Immunotherapy treats the actual underlying immune process causing the allergy symptoms by allowing your body to become more tolerant to what it was allergic to before. Some have purported that his approach is based on a simplified version of the homeopathic principle called isopathy, meaning “treating like with like”. During the course of immunotherapy you are exposed, over a gradual period of time, to what you are allergic to; which reduces allergic symptoms and lessons or eliminates the need for medications.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT / Allergy Drops) is the name given to allergy vaccines that are administered orally. The vaccine, rather than being administered by an injection, is administered as oral drops placed under the tongue, held there for a short period of time, and then swallowed. Sublingual immunotherapy is a unique immunotherapy modality that combines safety and convenience with excellent benefits.
Advantages of sublingual immunotherapy include an excellent safety profile which allows the treatment to be administered at home, saving on travel time, waiting time, and expenses associated with visiting the doctor’s office on a regular basis. It is an ideal treatment for patients who frequently travel out of town or do not live in close proximity to the allergist’s office. The lack of injections makes sublingual immunotherapy easier to tolerate as there is no pain involved. Lastly, because the doses can be administered at home on a daily basis, therapeutic target doses are usually achieved in weeks rather than months.
The primary disadvantage of sublingual immunotherapy is that it is currently considered an investigational treatment in the United States. Even though the allergen extracts that are used for injection immunotherapy and for sublingual immunotherapy are the same and are licensed for use in the United States, the FDA has not yet approved the extracts for SLIT. Consequently, insurance companies are not currently reimbursing this form of treatment, making the expense “out-of-pocket”. Nevertheless, the overall cost of SLIT is significantly less than a lifetime of allergy medications and office visits for allergy-related illnesses and is comparable to the overall cost of receiving injection immunotherapy.