Sublingual immunotherapy, or SLIT, is a specific form of immunotherapy used to treat respiratory allergic diseases. It can improve allergy symptoms, help prevent the development of asthma and new allergies, and reduce the need for allergy medications.
With SLIT, instead of being given allergy shots to help overcome and control allergy symptoms, allergy tablets that go under the tongue daily are administered.
The tablet goes under the tongue for a minute or two and is then swallowed once they dissolve. The tablets are designed to increase one’s tolerance to pollen and reduce symptoms over time.
SLIT is given in doses that gradually increase one’s exposure to the allergen. It is an alternative to allergy injections.
SLIT is used specifically to treat allergic rhinitis, often called hay fever. Hay fever is an inflammatory disease that results in congestion, an itchy and runny nose, and itchy and watery eyes.
The Basics of How SLIT Works
SLIT works by allowing you to be exposed to an antigen, which is an allergy-causing substance, without triggering an allergic response. This happens over time, allowing your body to build antibodies against the allergy-causing substance.
First, we will use allergy testing to determine your allergy triggers. Then, an allergen extract is approved.
Your first round of treatment will be in the doctor’s office, where they can observe your reaction to the medicine. From there, you take daily pills at home.
The Effectiveness of SLIT
SLIT is as effective as getting allergy shots. However, it can take longer to achieve desired results with SLIT.
Although it takes longer to achieve desired results, you don’t have to undergo regular shots at the doctor’s office. This can save you significant time and allows for a more free schedule while treating your allergies.
You will need to take daily oral drops with SLIT. In contrast, with allergy shots, you must take weekly or bi-monthly shots during the build-up period and shots every month for three to five years after.
Who Shouldn’t Receive SLIT
SLIT is a great way to treat specific types of allergies; however, it isn’t for everyone. The following patients shouldn’t receive SLIT:
Patients who are asthmatic and have flaring symptoms.
Patients who have an active rash or hives.
Patients who actively have a fever, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest cold, or flu-like symptoms.
Patients with high blood pressure
FDA-Approved Treatment Method
People suffering from allergic rhinitis/ rhinoconjunctivitis triggered by northern grasses, Timothy grass pollen, dust mites, and ragweed have the additional option to take specialized allergy tablets as treatment.
These tablets are all approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Oralair® - treats five different types of northern grass pollen allergy.
Grastek® - treats Timothy grass pollen allergy.
Ragwitek® - treats short ragweed allergy.
Odactra® - treats dust mite allergy.
Insurance companies generally cover FDA-approved allergy tablets.
There are also SLIT treatments that use non-approved FDA treatments. These are typically not covered by one’s insurance.
The Effectiveness of SLIT Treatment
Allergy tablets have been shown to improve long-term control of allergy symptoms, even after treatment has ended. However, it is important to remember that they are only effective at relieving symptoms triggered by the specific allergens contained within the tablet.
You will want to start SLIT treatment at least four months before the beginning of the pollen season.
Start in January for grass pollen allergies.
Start in May for ragweed pollen allergies.
The tablets should be taken throughout the pollen season. You can stop at the end of pollen season and start the next year again. You can also take the tablet year-round for grass allergies.
If you suffer from dust mite allergies, you can start at any time of the year and take the pills year-round.
Advantages of SLIT Treatment
There are some advantages of using SLIT treatment compared to injection immunotherapy.
Safety: SLIT treatment has a very low risk of triggering a severe whole-body allergic reaction.
Convenient: SLIT treatment can be self-administered at home; you don’t have to go to the doctor’s office for treatment.
Comfortable: SLIT treatment is a very comfortable treatment, as you can get it at home and don’t have to deal with injections.
You will take your first dose of treatment in the office and the following doses from the comfort of your own home. The treatment can take three to four months to start taking effect, with additional improvements over time. For SLIT to be effective, you must take it daily.
Sublingual Immunotherapy in Portland, Oregon
At West Hills Allergy & Asthma Associates, Dr. Anderson-Cowell has more than 23 years of experience diagnosing and treating patients with different types of allergies.
If you’re looking for expert diagnostic experience and effective treatment for your allergy needs, Dr. Anderson-Cowell can help. For a consultation, please call (503) 297-4779 or request an appointment online.
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