Sublingual immunotherapy, also known as allergy drops, has been used in the U.S. for more than 35 years, with research dating back 40 years. It uses dates approximately 100 years in some parts of the world. Yet many allergy sufferers have heard little about this treatment option. Thanks to an increase in European research over the past decade and tremendous growth in the use of allergy drops worldwide, we now have valid scientific evidence that corroborates what many have known for decades – allergy drops are both safe and effective. Sublingual immunotherapy will likely prove to be one of the most important innovations in allergy treatment in the past century.
Until allergy drops are more widely available in the U.S. and more resources are dedicated to educating providers and patients about allergy drops, it’s important to understand the facts about this treatment to help you determine whether it’s the right course of treatment for you.
Although most allergy sufferers can benefit from allergy drops, they’re especially ideal for people who can’t tolerate or don’t respond to allergy shots, as well as people who are unable to commit to allergy shot therapy. These people include:
Infants and children*
Highly sensitive people
Those with chronic conditions including sinusitis
People with food and mold allergies
People with multiple allergies including dust, pollen, animals
*allergy drops have proven especially helpful for children with eczema and recurrent ear infections, which often have underlying allergic causes. Research shows that many children with untreated eczema and allergies often develop asthma and other chronic conditions later in life, so treating them early can have life-long benefits.
In addition to being able to treat patients of all ages safely and effectively, there are other advantages to allergy drops.
Lower cost, fewer clinic visits. Compared to shots, allergy drops cost and required fewer clinic visits. Most patients receiving allergy drops need only a few clinic visits the first year, and once every 6-12 month thereafter until visits are no longer needed.
More convenient. You can take allergy drops at home or wherever you need to be, making it much easier to stay with your treatment.
Less medication. Our patients report, and research confirms, that most patients report needing less medication to control symptoms after drops.
Enjoy healthier days. The end benefit? Feeling better. Patient typically report fewer clinic visits, hospitalizations, and less lost time work and school after taking drops consistently.
Allergy drops have been used around the world for more than 60 years, and numerous studies validate both safety and effectiveness. In fact, the World Health Organization has endorsed sublingual immunotherapy as a viable alternative to injection therapy.
The Cochrane Collaboration, the world’s most trusted international organization dedicated to reviewing healthcare treatments, recently concluded allergy drop immunotherapy significantly reduced allergy symptoms and use of allergy medications.
First, it’s important that the antigens used in allergy drops are the same physician prescribed antigens used in allergy shots. They’re prepared in the same way as allergy shots. The difference is the route of administration – a dropper that delivers the antigens under the tongue versus a syringe injecting antigen into tissue.
Currently antigens are labeled by the FDA for use through injections. Using them for sublingual immunotherapy is an off-label use of an FDA-approved biologic, which is both legal and highly common. Most physicians prescribe “off-label” use of myriad of drugs today, for example, the use of blood pressure medications for migraines, aspirin for heart conditions, or the use of arthritis drugs for the treatment of shingles.
Allergy drops are widely used throughout the world. In fact 50-75 percent of allergy sufferers in southern Europe are treated with allergy drops. That acceptance is growing throughout the world, and is beginning to grow in the United States as the treatment becomes more widely available.
Most patients take allergy drops each day for three to five years, but it varies according to the severity of your allergies and the seasonality. Many patients report improvement within a few weeks to a month.
Dr. Michael Reilly is double board-certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology--Head & Neck Surgery and The American Board of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. He specializes in facial plastic surgery.
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