If you’ve been following the AllerVision blog and Facebook page, you know we’re enthusiastic about allergy drops (also known as sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT). Why? Lots of reasons, including the facts that they’re very easy to use, extremely effective, and suitable for allergy sufferers of all ages, to name just a few. Many people haven’t heard of allergy drops, though, and here are the top seven questions they ask when their doctor prescribes them.
1) How do they work? Once your doctor performs an allergy test and determines your allergy triggers, s/he prescribes drops based on those allergens that affect you. The drops contain low doses of those allergens (also known as antigens) — essentially, you put drops of pollen, dust, etc. under your tongue. Your immune system gradually begins to recognize that those particles are allies, not enemies, and stops trying to fight them off. As a result, allergy symptoms retreat and disappear.
2) How long does it take to work and how long do they last? Within the first six months of starting treatment — and often much sooner — your allergy symptoms will likely fall away dramatically. You’ll stay on the drops for about four years and probably will enjoy allergy relief for at least 10-15 years after you stop. For some, it will last significantly longer; relief varies from person to person.
3) What allergies do they “fix”? Drops can help resolve your allergies to inhaled allergens such as pollen, pet dander, dust and mold. Exciting new studies have shown success with peanut allergy as well, but that treatment is in its infancy and requires close monitoring by an allergy specialist.
4) Are they better than allergy shots? Drops and shots use the same antigens, so in principle they should work equally well. The clinical studies confirm that when used consistently, drops and shots have basically the same results. Drops seem to work better for some people, though. This may be because they’re much more convenient and you don’t have to stop them when you go on vacation, feel under the weather or can’t make it to the doctor’s office; therefore, patients are more likely to complete the full course of treatment. And kids, especially, prefer drops because there are no needles. For drops, you simply squeeze a little liquid under your tongue and hold it for two minutes each morning. For shots, you visit the doctor each week and stay for at least 30 minutes.
5) Why are the drops considered “off label” by the FDA? The FDA has approved individual antigens for use in injections, and a few some sublingual delivery but whenever antigens are combined for individualized treatment, the mix is considered off label. Both shots and drops are formulated off label to make sure they fit your exact needs. Nonetheless, every ingredient is FDA-approved and manufactured under the highest FDA standards. And drops are proven to be safer than injections.
6) What do they taste like? Because the antigens are suspended in glycerine, which is basically a sugar, the drops taste rather sweet. You place them under your tongue where you won’t taste much, but most patients usually enjoy what they do taste.
7) Will they interfere with medications or treatment of other conditions? It’s important to remember that drops are not medicine but are rather just little bits of tree, grass, weeds etc. that you already encounter in your environment, so they don’t interact with meds. For the same reason, they don’t cause side effects — like drowsiness, weight gain and increased blood pressure, common problems of many allergy medications — and have no effect on the treatment of other conditions. Also, drops are suitable for allergy sufferers of all ages, from young children to seniors.
For answers to other questions about drops, click here or ask your healthcare provider. In this world where allergies are only getting worse, drops are the safe, easy, and definitive solution to the allergy problem!