When I started prescribing sublingual immunotherapy to my allergic patients in the 1980s, one of the biggest selling points was that patients could administer it at home. For years, patients wanting lasting relief through allergy immunotherapy had only one option—allergy shots. The shots presented a number of challenges, however:
- Safety concerns. Though rare, allergy shots have induced life-threatening anaphylactic reactions. Studies show that about three people per year die due to allergen injections.
- Inconvenience. Because of the risks associated with allergy shots, they must be administered under medical supervision. Getting to the doctor’s office multiple times per week for shots can be a real challenge for busy families, full-time workers, frequent travelers, etc.
- Age limitations. Allergy shots are not recommended for children under age 7.
Rather than deal with the risks and/or hassle of allergy shots, I encountered many patients who limped along with allergies that threatened their quality of life.
Allergy drops presented an optimal alternative and side-stepped all of the challenges mentioned above. Sublingual immunotherapy is safer than shots and is not associated with life-threatening anaphylaxis. As a result, it can be prescribed to younger children. And who can argue with the convenience of dispensing a few liquid drops under their tongue each day in contrast to driving to the doctor’s office for shots?
As with all treatments, though, consistency is key. I often say, “When the going gets good, the good get going.” It’s not uncommon for patients to experience symptom relief in the first few months of allergy treatment. When they feel good again, that compelling drive to take their daily drops may wane, and so will the effectiveness of the treatment.
With any type of immunotherapy (shots or drops), staying the course is critical. While you may feel like a new person in a matter of weeks or months, your immune system is still learning and may require three to five years to master new habits and become permanently desensitized to allergens in the environment.
So how do you stay consistent with taking your allergy drops when human nature may sag toward slacking off? Here are a few ideas that have worked for other AllergyEasy patients:
Keep it where you can see it. Your best bet for consistency is to keep your drops in plain sight—whether that be on the nightstand or kitchen table or bathroom counter. Fortunately, drops don’t need to be refrigerated. Just make sure that you aren’t storing your drops somewhere that is warmer than room temperature.
Incorporate them into an existing routine. Think of the routines that make up your day: your wakeup routine, your bedtime routine, your mealtime routine. Take your drops in conjunction with one of those previously-established habits to help ensure consistency. Just make sure that you are taking your drops at roughly the same time each day.
Also, if your established routine involves eating, remember that it is best to take the drops several minutes before you take your first bite. This gives the drops ample time to absorb under your tongue. (And note that drops can be taken on a full or empty stomach so you won’t have to worry about that.) You should also make sure that you don’t brush your teeth or swish mouthwash directly after taking your drops.
Use a medicine calendar or app. Because you’ll be taking your sublingual allergy drops every day, it becomes a very familiar practice—so familiar that you may not remember whether or not you’ve taken them. To keep this from happening, keep the dosage journal that comes with your AllergyEasy serum near the dropper vial. Once you graduate to maintenance serum, the dosage journal won’t apply anymore, but you can print your own calendar or use a phone app such as the Medisafe Pill Reminder, Mango Health, or Pill Reminder All in One.
Set an alarm on your phone. If the app sounds too high tech, you can simply set a daily alarm on your phone or use a separate timer (we like the “Tabtime” timer because it’s compact and can hold multiple alarms). And if you have a virtual assistant like Alexa, she can remind you to take your allergy drops as well.
The good, old-fashioned sticky note. This one’s old school, but it’s effective. Put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror or nightstand that says, “Have you taken your drops today?” It’s a helpful catch-all at the end of the day to ensure that you don’t go to bed without taking your daily drops.
Schedule follow-up visits. Follow-up visits with your provider create accountability. Talk to your physician about how frequently they would like to see you for checkups, and schedule the visits without delay. You can always adjust them later, but at least you’ll have something on your calendar to keep you consistent.
Get back on the wagon fast. If you do stop taking your serum, call your provider as soon as possible. No one benefits when you sit around feeling sheepish about dropping off the serum and worried about contacting your doctor. Your physician is there to support you on your treatment journey and help create a path forward—regardless of where you’re at. They can help you restart on the program, which may entail being retested at their sublingual immunotherapy clinic or simply backing up a few doses on your serum schedule. Either way, restarting is possible and probably easier than you think.
When you’re fed up with your sneezing, runny or congested nose, headache, eczema, wheezing, fatigue, or yet another sinus or ear infection, it’s easy to remember to take your drops. The challenge is to remember them even when you feel good. With consistency, you can help your immune system work toward achieving full “immune modulation” (when you no longer react to allergens in your environment).