How do I Know if I Need Sublingual Immunotherapy (vs. Allergy Meds)?

Another fall season is passing by. If you have allergies, you may be breathing a sigh of relief to have your sniffling and sneezing behind you—at least until spring when hay fever kicks up again. Allergies can feel like a never-ending cycle with only brief periods of relief in between.

Perhaps you’ve treated your allergies with medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, or corticosteroids. These medications may take the edge off of your discomfort, but most people report that they still experience some symptoms in spite of their regular regimen of allergy drugs.

How do I Know if I Need Sublingual Immunotherapy (vs. Allergy Meds)?

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Another problem is that these medications come with side effects—everything from drowsiness to dementia. (Prolonged use of certain antihistamines has been linked to dementia.)

But perhaps the biggest drawback of allergy medications is that they don’t do anything to fix the root of your allergy problem; they just address the symptoms. They are simply a bandage slapped onto a persistent “wound.”

Unlike medications, sublingual immunotherapy—a hassle-free alternative to allergy shots—provides a lasting fix to allergic disease. Immunotherapy is, after all, the only known treatment that can “rewire” the immune system so that you stop reacting to allergens in the environment once and for all.

With sublingual immunotherapy, you dispense a few drops of liquid antigen under your tongue each day. As your immune system learns to tolerate the antigen, it becomes desensitized to the things in the environment that once made you miserable.

You may be a candidate for sublingual immunotherapy if…

If you’re tired of “just getting by” with a litany of allergy medications and you want something more permanent, you may wonder if sublingual immunotherapy is right for you. Here are key points to consider in weighing whether sublingual immunotherapy is an appropriate treatment option.

Symptom duration. As a general rule, if your symptoms last for a total of more than three to four months per year, you may be a candidate for sublingual immunotherapy. After all, four months out of every year is a long time to be taking medications year after year.

Symptom severity. An important part of the calculus is how severe your symptoms are. Even if your symptoms don’t quite hit that three to four month duration point, if they are so bad that they are significantly diminishing your well-being, sublingual immunotherapy may be a good option. Whether it be severe hives or eczema, wheezing or asthma, or hay fever that is so miserable that it keeps you from your daily tasks, it’s worth inquiring about a long-term solution rather than just suffering through it.

Food allergies. If you have food allergies, allergy drugs won’t stop the problem—and neither will allergy shots. However, thanks to pioneering research at institutions like Duke and Oxford, sublingual/oral immunotherapy has now been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for food allergies.

By exposing the body to the food proteins that once elicited reactions, sublingual immunotherapy can help desensitize the body to these proteins so that you can eat more of what you love without repercussions.

If the duration or severity of your allergy symptoms fits the criteria outlined above—or if you have food allergies—talk to your physician about the AllergyEasy program. He or she can perform an exam. This will probably include filling out an allergy history survey where you list your symptoms and rate their severity. Your physician can then evaluate you for physical signs of allergy. They may listen to your lungs, check the lining of your nose for inflammation, and look at any allergy-related skin rashes that you may have.

Beyond that, your physician can order an allergy test kit to help determine what you are allergic to and begin prescribing sublingual immunotherapy.

As you and your doctor weigh the decision of whether you continue using allergy medications or get treatment through sublingual immunotherapy, keep this benefit in mind: sublingual immunotherapy is a natural allergy treatment. Synthetic medications always come with side effects, but allergy drops are made up of the same things that you breathe in every day in nature. This is why doctors and naturopaths alike embrace sublingual allergy immunotherapy as a treatment that can produce lasting results without adverse effects.

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of living with allergies, but why suffer when there are treatment alternatives that can end the allergic cycle? Be proactive and talk to your doctor about a pathway to long-term relief.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.