More and more people are considering sublingual immunotherapy as an alternative to allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy). Sublingual immunotherapy works like allergy shots except that the antigen solution is dispensed as liquid droplets under the tongue instead of being injected. The solution then absorbs into the bloodstream through specialized oral cells and can desensitize the body to allergens in the environment.
The advantages of sublingual immunotherapy include:
- Safety. Allergy drops have a higher safety profile than allergy injections.
- Convenience. Because of their safety profile, drops can be taken at home instead of at the doctor’s office, saving patients a great deal of time.
- Fewer age restrictions. Shots are usually only prescribed for children ages 7 and up, but drops have been shown to be safe for children 5 and under.
- Effective for food allergies. Allergy shots aren’t a viable treatment for food allergies, but allergy drops have been found to be safe and effective for milk, nut, and wheat allergy treatment and more.
One challenge remains with sublingual immunotherapy, though, and that is that not all insurance companies cover it. Most insurance plans cover allergy testing as well as related doctor visits, but only some insurances cover the sublingual drops themselves.
You can talk to your allergy doctor to learn more, but if your insurance doesn’t cover the drops, do a careful cost comparison, keeping the following in mind:
Copays add up. If you’re being charged a copayment every time you show up to the doctor’s office for a shot, that can add up quickly. Make sure that the copays for shots don’t cost as much as the allergy drops themselves.
Time is money. If you are having to drive to the doctor’s office a couple times a week for allergy injections, is it worth it? Time is money, so make sure that the money you may be saving on shots is worth it when you consider the time that they are taking away from your job, family, or other aspects of your life.
Travel costs. Depending on how far you are from your doctor, don’t forget to figure in mileage costs for driving to and from their office for shots.
Effectiveness. Many people opt for drops instead of shots even if their insurance doesn’t cover because they get better results from drops. Many patients report experiencing more rapid symptom relief from drops than shots.
Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of shots and drops, and choose the option that works best with your specific health needs and life situation.