Allergy immunotherapy treats more than just the symptoms of allergy. It is the only treatment known to affect the allergic disease itself—not just allergy symptoms. The purpose of immunotherapy is to desensitize the body to allergens in the environment so that it will stop overreacting to them in ways that lead to uncomfortable allergy symptoms.
Allergens (such as pollen) are not the problem–they’re actually harmless. The real problem is the way that the immune system of an allergic person reactions to these allergens. Rather than simply ignoring them, the immune system perceives them as an attacking enemy and and emits chemicals in the body to fend off the allergens. These chemicals lead to asthma, skin rashes, coughing, chronic sinus and ear infections, sneezing, itchy eyes, headache, and more.
Two ways immunotherapy is delivered:
- allergy injections (subcutaneous immunotherapy or SCIT – allergy shots)
- oral drops (sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT – allergy drops)
With subcutaneous immunotherapy, an allergy serum made up of traces of common allergens (grass pollens, tree pollens, etc.) is injected under the first layers of skin so it can absorb into the blood stream. With sublingual immunotherapy, the serum is deposited under the tongue where it absorbs into the bloodstream through special cells in the mouth.
As the body is exposed to this serum, it may become desensitized to major allergens so that it will stop overreacting to them when it encounters them in nature.
SCIT has been around longer than sublingual immunotherapy. (SLIT became widely used in the mid-1980s.) However, SLIT is widely considered more user-friendly because it is safer than shots and can be taken in the comfort of home rather than at a medical clinic.
Studies have shown sublingual immunotherapy to be safe for kids less than age 5. It is also a good option for people who travel often, as they can be taken on the go.
SLIT has been supported by dozens of clinical trials performed throughout the world. SLIT is used in many countries, particularly those in Europe. In fact, more than 45 percent of Europeans who receive allergy treatment opt for sublingual immunotherapy.
SLIT is often a popular choice in the United States because of its effectiveness, its safety record, and the fact that it can be dosed at home. SLIT is affirmed by WHO (the World Health Organization) and ARIA guidelines (Allergic Rhinitis and its Impact on Asthma).
Contact AllergyEasy to find a sublingual immunotherapy allergist in your area who specializes in sublingual immunotherapy for environmental and food allergies.