Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is a treatment for asthma and allergic diseases that desensitizes individuals to allergens by delivering a precise, measured dose of allergy extracts to stimulate your immune system – but not enough to cause a full-blown allergic reaction.
It is similar to subcutaneous immunotherapy (i.e., allergy shots), except that the allergy extracts are placed under the tongue and affect the immune system through specialized cells that are found under the tongue. Subcutaneous immunotherapy is delivered in small doses, but sublingual immunotherapy should be delivered in larger doses in order to achieve the desired therapeutic effect.
The dose of allergens is gradually increased over time. This helps the body’s immune system build up a tolerance to the allergens, which can reduce and/or eliminate your allergy symptoms over time. The mixture and concentration of allergen extracts in each prescription of allergy drops is determined by the ordering physician. Eventually, SLIT reaches a maintenance phase during which the dose remains the same.
There are several components that factor into creating the optimal dosage of SLIT. For example, allergen cross-reactivity and antigen biocompatibility should be carefully considered when prescribing SLIT to a patient to ensure efficacy of the particular dose.
According to studies, sublingual immunotherapy is generally well-tolerated with minimal side effects. It is also easier to administer than allergy shots. The sublingual drops can be self-administered at home without the time commitment and hassle of scheduling frequent visits to the doctor’s office.
What Can SLIT Treat?
Allergen immunotherapy may be a good treatment for rhinitis, asthma, and other allergic diseases if:
- Allergy medications do no provide adequate relief
- Allergic triggers are difficult to avoid
- Allergy medications cause intolerable side effects
- Long-term use and effects of medication is a concern
Am I a Good Candidate for SLIT?
SLIT is appropriate for most adults and children with mild, moderate, and severe allergies. It is especially beneficial for sensitive patients who are averse to receiving allergy shots (i.e. subcutaneous treatment). Allergen immunotherapy is not recommended for pregnant women, severe uncontrolled asthma, certain heart or lung problems, or if you take a beta blocker for heart problems.
SLIT should not be taken without a physician’s prescription and guidance. Please speak to a physician to determine whether you qualify for SLIT.
Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT) – seroSLIT
Immunotherapy is widely used by allergy specialists because it treats the underlying cause of allergic reactions instead of temporarily alleviating symptoms. Immunotherapy is designed to gradually desensitize the immune system to specific allergens. Patients receive small doses of a specific allergen(s) – not enough to cause a full-blown allergic reaction, but enough to build up a tolerance. Immunotherapy can potentially lead to remission of allergy symptoms, even after discontinuing treatment.
Sublingual vs. Subcutaneous Immunotherapy
There are two ways to administer immunotherapy: subcutaneously (via allergy shots) and sublingually (via drops applied underneath the tongue). Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is advantageous for a number of reasons:
Drops are more convenient to administer. Sublingual immunotherapy can be administered at home, saving patients from having to frequently schedule doctors’ appointments and miss school or work.
Drops do not require a physician to administer them. Since sublingual immunotherapy can be administered at home, patients save money on regular appointment co-pays and other charges (travel time &, time taken off work) that can add up over the course of treatment.
Drops are well-tolerated with very few side effects. SLIT, which has been the standard of care in Europe for decades, has a stellar safety record.