Nasal inhalers, antihistamine or decongestant pills, corticosteroids—they can all take allergy symptoms down a notch, but at what cost? While many of these medications are helpful in the short-term, they can cause side effects that, in some cases, may be as bothersome as the allergy symptom itself.
While not everyone will experience side effects from allergy medications, many people will. For antihistamines, these side effects could include drowsiness, dizziness and dry mouth. Antihistamines have even been linked to depression and dementia. Decongestants can trigger an irregular heartbeat and cause dryness and rebound congestion. Oral corticosteroids can lead to weight gain, acne, fluid retention, osteoporosis and more.
Medications provide many answers, but they may not be the right choice for everyone. Patients who want an alternative allergy treatment that is free of the negative effects of synthetic medications are turning increasingly to sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT).
What is sublingual immunotherapy?
SLIT starts with a saline solution containing natural allergen extracts. This solution, sometimes called “allergy serum,” is dosed as liquid droplets under the tongue that absorb into the bloodstream through specialized oral cells. The treatment is a lot like allergy shots, but it is safe enough to be administered at home. That means that you don’t have to drive back and forth to the doctor’s office a couple of times per week for injections.
The extracts in the serum represent the very things that you are allergic to, which may include food proteins, pollens, and more. As your body is gradually exposed to these allergen extracts, it learns to tolerate them. In essence, sublingual immunotherapy is retraining your immune system to ignore allergens rather than overreacting to them.
When did this treatment come about?
Sublingual immunotherapy was developed in the mid-1980s. It is very popular in many countries, especially in Europe where it is prescribed in nearly half of allergy treatment cases.
How long will it take to see results?
The allergy drops are taken daily and may produce faster results than allergy shots. Most patients see marked improvement by the time they report for their three-month checkup, and it is not uncommon for patients to start experiencing symptom relief within the first month of taking the drops.
How much does sublingual immunotherapy cost?
Most insurance plans cover testing and doctor visits; some insurance plans cover the drops themselves. Contact a sublingual immunotherapy clinic to find out if your insurance will cover treatment.
Does sublingual immunotherapy help with food allergies?
SLIT has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for food allergies and can help desensitize you to dozens of the most common food allergens.